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1.  Identification of a Crucial Residue Required for Staphylococcus aureus LukAB Cytotoxicity and Receptor Recognition 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(3):1268-1276.
The bicomponent leukotoxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus kill host immune cells through osmotic lysis by forming β-barrel pores in the host plasma membrane. The current model for bicomponent pore formation proposes that octameric pores, comprised of two separate secreted polypeptides (S and F subunits), are assembled from water-soluble monomers in the extracellular milieu and multimerize on target cell membranes. However, it has yet to be determined if all staphylococcal bicomponent leukotoxin family members exhibit these properties. In this study, we report that leukocidin A/B (LukAB), the most divergent member of the leukotoxin family, exists as a heterodimer in solution rather than two separate monomeric subunits. Notably, this property was found to be associated with enhanced toxin activity. LukAB also differs from the other bicomponent leukotoxins in that the S subunit (LukA) contains 33- and 10-amino-acid extensions at the N and C termini, respectively. Truncation mutagenesis revealed that deletion of the N terminus resulted in a modest increase in LukAB cytotoxicity, whereas the deletion of the C terminus rendered the toxin inactive. Within the C terminus of LukA, we identified a glutamic acid at position 323 that is critical for LukAB cytotoxicity. Furthermore, we discovered that this residue is conserved and required for the interaction between LukAB and its cellular target CD11b. Altogether, these findings provide an in-depth analysis of how LukAB targets neutrophils and identify novel targets suitable for the rational design of anti-LukAB inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3958006  PMID: 24379286
2.  Cell targeting by the Staphylococcus aureus pore-forming toxins: It’s not just about lipids 
Trends in microbiology  2013;22(1):21-27.
Staphylococcus aureus employs numerous pore-forming cytotoxins to injure host immune cells and promote infection. Until recently, it was unclear how these cytotoxins targeted specific cell types for lysis. Membrane lipids were initially postulated to be cytotoxin receptor candidates. However, the cell-type specificity and species-dependent targeting of these toxins did not support lipids as sole receptors. The recent identification of proteinaceous receptors for several S. aureus cytotoxins now provides an explanation for the observed tropism. These findings also have important implications for the implementation of animal models to study S. aureus pathogenesis, and for the development of novel therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3929396  PMID: 24231517
Pore-forming toxins; toxin receptors; membrane proteins Staphylococcus aureus
3.  Children with Invasive Staphylococcus aureus Disease Exhibit a Potently Neutralizing Antibody Response to the Cytotoxin LukAB 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(3):1234-1242.
Despite the importance of Staphylococcus aureus as a common invasive bacterial pathogen, the humoral response to infection remains inadequately defined, particularly in children. The purpose of this study was to assess the humoral response to extracellular staphylococcal virulence factors, including the bicomponent leukotoxins, which are critical for the cytotoxicity of S. aureus toward human neutrophils. Children with culture-proven S. aureus infection were prospectively enrolled and stratified by disease type. Fifty-three children were enrolled in the study, of which 90% had invasive disease. Serum samples were obtained during the acute (within 48 h) and convalescent (4 to 6 weeks postinfection) phases, at which point both IgG titers against S. aureus exotoxins were determined, and the functionality of the generated antibodies was evaluated. Molecular characterization of clinical isolates was also performed. We observed a marked rise in antibody titer from acute-phase to convalescent-phase sera for LukAB, the most recently described S. aureus bicomponent leukotoxin. LukAB production by the isolates was strongly correlated with cytotoxicity in vitro, and sera containing anti-LukAB antibodies potently neutralized cytotoxicity. Antibodies to S. aureus antigens were detectable in healthy pediatric controls but at much lower titers than in sera from infected subjects. The discovery of a high-titer, neutralizing antibody response to LukAB during invasive infections suggests that this toxin is produced in vivo and that it elicits a functional humoral response.
PMCID: PMC3957992  PMID: 24379282
4.  Staphylococcus aureus Elaborates Leukocidin AB To Mediate Escape from within Human Neutrophils 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(5):1830-1841.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains of the pulsed-field type USA300 are primarily responsible for the current community-associated epidemic of MRSA infections in the United States. The success of USA300 is partly attributed to the ability of the pathogen to avoid destruction by human neutrophils (polymorphonuclear leukocytes [PMNs]), which are crucial to the host immune response to S. aureus infection. In this work, we investigated the contribution of bicomponent pore-forming toxins to the ability of USA300 to withstand attack from primary human PMNs. We demonstrate that in vitro growth conditions influence the expression, production, and availability of leukotoxins by USA300, which in turn impact the cytotoxic potential of this clone toward PMNs. Interestingly, we also found that upon exposure to PMNs, USA300 preferentially activates the promoter of the lukAB operon, which encodes the recently identified leukocidin AB (LukAB). LukAB elaborated by extracellular S. aureus forms pores in the plasma membrane of PMNs, leading to PMN lysis, highlighting a contribution of LukAB to USA300 virulence. We now show that LukAB also facilitates the escape of bacteria engulfed within PMNs, in turn enabling the replication and outgrowth of S. aureus. Together, these results suggest that upon encountering PMNs S. aureus induces the production of LukAB, which serves as an extra- and intracellular weapon to protect the bacterium from destruction by human PMNs.
PMCID: PMC3648020  PMID: 23509138
5.  CCR5 is a receptor for Staphylococcus aureus leukotoxin ED 
Nature  2012;493(7430):51-55.
Pore-forming toxins are critical virulence factors for many bacterial pathogens and are central to Staphylococcus aureus-mediated killing of host cells. S. aureus encodes pore-forming bi-component leukotoxins that are toxic toward neutrophils, but also specifically target other immune cells. Despite decades since the first description of Staphylococcal leukocidal activity, the host factors responsible for the selectivity of leukotoxins toward different immune cells remain unknown. Here we identified the HIV co-receptor, CCR5, as a cellular determinant required for cytotoxic targeting of subsets of myeloid cells and T lymphocytes by the S. aureus leukotoxin ED (LukED). We further demonstrate that LukED-dependent cell killing is blocked by CCR5 receptor antagonists, including the HIV drug maraviroc. Remarkably, CCR5-deficient mice are largely resistant to lethal S. aureus infection, highlighting the importance of CCR5 targeting in S. aureus pathogenesis. Thus, depletion of CCR5+ leukocytes by LukED suggests a novel S. aureus immune evasion mechanism that can be therapeutically targeted.
PMCID: PMC3536884  PMID: 23235831
6.  Alpha-Toxin Induces Programmed Cell Death of Human T cells, B cells, and Monocytes during USA300 Infection 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36532.
This investigation examines the influence of alpha-toxin (Hla) during USA300 infection of human leukocytes. Survival of an USA300 isogenic deletion mutant of hla (USA300Δhla) in human blood was comparable to the parental wild-type strain and polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) plasma membrane permeability caused by USA300 did not require Hla. Flow cytometry analysis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) following infection by USA300, USA300Δhla, and USA300Δhla transformed with a plasmid over-expressing Hla (USA300Δhla Comp) demonstrated this toxin plays a significant role inducing plasma membrane permeability of CD14+, CD3+, and CD19+ PBMCs. Rapid plasma membrane permeability independent of Hla was observed for PMNs, CD14+ and CD19+ PBMCs following intoxication with USA300 supernatant while the majority of CD3+ PBMC plasma membrane permeability induced by USA300 required Hla. Addition of recombinant Hla to USA300Δhla supernatant rescued CD3+ and CD19+ PBMC plasma membrane permeability generated by USA300 supernatant. An observed delay in plasma membrane permeability caused by Hla in conjunction with Annexin V binding and ApoBrdU Tunel assays examining PBMCs intoxicated with recombinant Hla or infected with USA300, USA300Δhla, USA300Δhla Comp, and USA300ΔsaeR/S suggest Hla induces programmed cell death of monocytes, B cells, and T cells that results in plasma membrane permeability. Together these findings underscore the importance of Hla during S. aureus infection of human tissue and specifically demonstrate Hla activity during USA300 infection triggers programmed cell death of human monocytes, T cells and B cells that leads to plasma membrane permeability.
PMCID: PMC3344897  PMID: 22574180
7.  Characterization of a new cytotoxin that contributes to Staphylococcus aureus pathogenesis 
Molecular Microbiology  2010;79(3):814-825.
Staphylococcus aureus is an important pathogen that continues to be a significant global health threat due to the prevalence of methicillin resistant S. aureus strains (MRSA). The pathogenesis of this organism is partly attributed to the production of a large repertoire of cytotoxins that target and kill innate immune cells, which provide the first line of defense against S. aureus infection. Here we demonstrate that leukocidin A/B (LukAB) is required and sufficient for the ability of S. aureus, including MRSA, to kill human neutrophils, macrophages and dendritic cells. LukAB targets the plasma membrane of host cells resulting in cellular swelling and subsequent cell death. We found that S. aureus lacking lukAB are severely impaired in their ability to kill phagocytes during bacteria-phagocyte interaction, which in turn renders the lukAB-negative staphylococci more susceptible to killing by neutrophils. Notably, we show that lukAB is expressed in vivo within abscesses in a murine infection model and that it contributes significantly to pathogenesis of MRSA in an animal hosts. Collectively, these results extend our understanding of how S. aureus avoids phagocyte-mediated clearance, and underscore LukAB as an important factor that contributes to staphylococcal pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3312031  PMID: 21255120
MRSA; Staphylococcus aureus; neutrophils; pathogenesis; leukotoxins
8.  Phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase, mTOR, and Glycogen synthase kinase-3β mediated regulation of p21 in human urothelial carcinoma cells 
BMC Urology  2011;11:19.
The PTEN/Phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3-kinase) growth factor signaling pathway plays a critical role in epithelial tumor development in a multitude of tissue types. Deletion of the Pten tumor suppressor gene in murine urothelial cells in vivo results in upregulation of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21. We have previously shown in mice that p21 expression blocks an increase in urothelial cell proliferation due to Pten deletion. In this study, we utilized human urothelial carcinoma cells UMUC-3 and UMUC-14 to identify the signaling pathways downstream of PI3-kinase that regulate p21.
Cells were treated with a combination of PI3-kinase stimulating growth factors and kinase inhibitors, or transfected with exogenous genes in order to identify the signaling events that are necessary for p21 induction. Mice with conditional deletion of Pten in bladder urothelium were also examined for evidence of PI3-kinase pathway signaling events that affect p21 expression.
When cells were treated with PI3-kinase activating growth factors EGF or PDGF, we found that p21 levels increased, in a manner similar to that observed in mice. We used the inhibitors LY294002, Akti-1/2, and rapamycin, to show that p21 induction is dependent upon PI3-kinase and AKT activity, and partially dependent on mTOR. We treated the cells with proteasome inhibitor MG-132 and found that p21 may be degraded in the proteasome to regulate protein levels. Importantly, our findings show that GSK-3β plays a role in diminishing p21 levels in cells. Treatment of cells with the GSK-3β inhibitor SB-216763 increased p21 levels, while exogenous expression of GSK-3β caused a decrease in p21, indicating that GSK-3β actively reduces p21 levels. We found that a combined treatment of LY294002 and SB-216763 improved the cytotoxic effect against UMUC-3 and UMUC-14 carcinoma cells over LY294002 alone, suggesting potential therapeutic uses for GSK-3β inhibitors. Immunohistochemical staining in bladders from wild-type and Pten-deleted mice indicated that GSK-3β inhibitory phosphorylation increases when Pten is deleted.
PI3-kinase and AKT cause an upregulation of p21 by suppressing GSK-3β activity and activating mTOR in both cultured human urothelial carcinoma cells and mouse urothelial cells in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3173386  PMID: 21864408

Results 1-8 (8)