A point mutation in the sensor histidine kinase SaeS of Staphylococcus aureus strain Newman alters the response to biocide exposure

, , , , , , , , , , , and . Journal of Bacteriology 191 (23): 7306--7314 (December 2009)PMID: 19783632.


Staphylococcus aureus reacts to changing environmental conditions such as heat, pH, and chemicals through global regulators such as the sae (S. aureus exoprotein expression) two-component signaling system. Subinhibitory concentrations of some antibiotics were shown to increase virulence factor expression. Here, we investigated the S. aureus stress response to sublethal concentrations of a commonly used biocide (Perform), by real-time quantitative PCR (qRT-PCR), promoter activity assay, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and a flow cytometric invasion assay. Perform, acting through the production of reactive oxygen species, generally downregulated expression of extracellular proteins in strains 6850, COL, ISP479C but upregulated these proteins in strain Newman. Upregulated proteins were sae dependent. The Perform component SDS, but not paraquat (another oxygen donor), mimicked the biocide effect. Eap (extracellular adherence protein) was most prominently augmented. Upregulation of eap and sae was confirmed by qRT-PCR. Promoter activity of sae P1 was increased by Perform and SDS. Both substances enhanced cellular invasiveness, by 2.5-fold and 3.2-fold, respectively. Increased invasiveness was dependent on Eap and the sae system, whereas agr, sarA, sigB, and fibronectin-binding proteins had no major effect in strain Newman. This unique response pattern was due to a point mutation in SaeS (the sensor histidine kinase), as demonstrated by allele swapping. Newman saePQRS(ISP479C) behaved like ISP479C, whereas saePQRS(Newman) rendered ISP479C equally responsive as Newman. Taken together, the findings indicate that a point mutation in SaeS of strain Newman was responsible for increased expression of Eap upon exposure to sublethal Perform and SDS concentrations, leading to increased Eap-dependent cellular invasiveness. This may be important for understanding the regulation of virulence in S. aureus.

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