SpdC, a novel virulence factor, controls histidine kinase activity in Staphylococcus aureus

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The success of Staphylococcus aureus, as both a human and animal pathogen, stems from its ability to rapidly adapt to a wide spectrum of environmental conditions. Two-component systems (TCSs) play a crucial role in this process. Here, we describe a novel staphylococcal virulence factor, SpdC, an Abi-domain protein, involved in signal sensing and/or transduction. We have uncovered a functional link between the WalKR essential TCS and the SpdC Abi membrane protein. Expression of spdC is positively regulated by the WalKR system and, in turn, SpdC negatively controls WalKR regulon genes, effectively constituting a negative feedback loop. The WalKR system is mainly involved in controlling cell wall metabolism through regulation of autolysin production. We have shown that SpdC inhibits the WalKR-dependent synthesis of four peptidoglycan hydrolases, SceD, SsaA, LytM and AtlA, as well as impacting S. aureus resistance towards lysostaphin and cell wall antibiotics such as oxacillin and tunicamycin. We have also shown that SpdC is required for S. aureus biofilm formation and virulence in a murine septicemia model. Using protein-protein interactions in E. coli as well as subcellular localization in S. aureus, we showed that SpdC and the WalK kinase are both localized at the division septum and that the two proteins interact. In addition to WalK, our results indicate that SpdC also interacts with nine other S. aureus histidine kinases, suggesting that this membrane protein may act as a global regulator of TCS activity. Indeed, using RNA-Seq analysis, we showed that SpdC controls the expression of approximately one hundred genes in S. aureus, many of which belong to TCS regulons.




Poupel, O., Proux, C., Jagla, B., Msadek, T., & Dubrac, S. (2018). SpdC, a novel virulence factor, controls histidine kinase activity in Staphylococcus aureus. PLoS Pathogens, 14(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1006917

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