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Inhibition of Rho Activity Increases Expression of SaeRS-Dependent Virulence Factor Genes in Staphylococcus aureus, Showing a Link between Transcription Termination, Antibiotic Action, and Virulence

Nagel, A., Michalik, S., Debarbouille, M., Hertlein, T., Salazar, M. G., Rath, H., Msadek, T., Ohlsen, K., van Dijl, J. M., Voelker, U. & Maeder, U., 2018, In : Mbio. 9, 5, 17 p., ARTN e01332-18.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

  • Anna Nagel
  • Stephan Michalik
  • Michel Debarbouille
  • Tobias Hertlein
  • Manuela Gesell Salazar
  • Hermann Rath
  • Tarek Msadek
  • Knut Ohlsen
  • Jan Maarten van Dijl
  • Uwe Voelker
  • Ulrike Maeder

Staphylococcus aureus causes various diseases ranging from skin and soft tissue infections to life-threatening infections. Adaptation to the different host niches is controlled by a complex network of transcriptional regulators. Global profiling of condition-dependent transcription revealed adaptation of S. aureus HG001 at the levels of transcription initiation and termination. In particular, deletion of the gene encoding the Rho transcription termination factor triggered a remarkable overall increase in antisense transcription and gene expression changes attributable to indirect regulatory effects. The goal of the present study was a detailed comparative analysis of S. aureus HG001 and its isogenic rho deletion mutant. Proteome analysis revealed significant differences in cellular and extracellular protein profiles, most notably increased amounts of the proteins belonging to the SaeR regulon in the Rho-deficient strain. The SaeRS two-component system acts as a major regulator of virulence gene expression in staphylococci. Higher levels of SaeRS-dependent virulence factors such as adhesins, toxins, and immune evasion proteins in the rho mutant resulted in higher virulence in a murine bacteremia model, which was alleviated in a rho complemented strain. Inhibition of Rho activity by bicyclomycin, a specific inhibitor of Rho activity, also induced the expression of SaeRS-dependent genes, at both the mRNA and protein levels, to the same extent as observed in the rho mutant. Taken together, these findings indicate that activation of the Sae system in the absence of Rho is directly linked to Rho's transcription termination activity and establish a new link between antibiotic action and virulence gene expression in S. aureus.

IMPORTANCE The major human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus is a widespread commensal bacterium but also the most common cause of nosocomial infections. It adapts to the different host niches through a complex gene regulatory network. We show here that the Rho transcription termination factor, which represses pervasive antisense transcription in various bacteria, including S. aureus, plays a role in controlling SaeRS-dependent virulence gene expression. A Rho-deficient strain produces larger amounts of secreted virulence factors in vitro and shows increased virulence in mice. We also show that treatment of S. aureus with the antibiotic bicyclomycin, which inhibits Rho activity and is effective against Gram-negative bacteria, induces the same changes in the proteome as observed in the Rho-deficient strain. Our results reveal for the first time a link between transcription termination and virulence regulation in S. aureus, which implies a novel mechanism by which an antibiotic can modulate the expression of virulence factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberARTN e01332-18
Number of pages17
JournalMbio
Volume9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Keywords

  • SaeRS TCS, Staphylococcus aureus, antisense transcription, bicyclomycin, proteome, transcription termination, PANTON-VALENTINE LEUKOCIDIN, 2-COMPONENT SYSTEM SAERS, ESCHERICHIA-COLI, SUBINHIBITORY CONCENTRATIONS, BACILLUS-SUBTILIS, IN-VIVO, MYCOBACTERIUM-TUBERCULOSIS, REGULATORY SYSTEM, IMMUNE EVASION, RNA-POLYMERASE

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