The dimerization interface in VraR is essential for induction of the cell wall stress response in Staphylococcus aureus: A potential druggable target

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Abstract

Background: Staphylococcus aureus remains a medical challenge in the treatment of bacterial infections. It has acquired resistance to commonly used antibiotics, and to those considered to be the last weapons in treating staphylococcal infections, such as vancomycin. Studies have revealed that S. aureus is capable of mounting a rapid response to antibiotics that target cell wall peptidoglycan biosynthesis, such as β-lactams and vancomycin. The two-component system VraSR has been linked to the coordination of this response. VraS is a histidine kinase that undergoes autophosphorylation in the presence of signals elicited upon cell wall damage and it then transfers its phosphoryl group to VraR. VraR is a response regulator protein that functions as a transcription factor. Phosphorylation of VraR leads to its dimerization, which is required for optimum binding to its target promoters. Two-component systems have been targeted for the development of antibacterial agents. Deletion of the vraS or vraR gene has been shown to re-sensitize S. aureus to β-lactams and vancomycin. Results: In this study, we explored perturbation of the VraR phosphorylation-induced activation as a means to inhibit the VraSR-mediated signal transduction pathway. We show that dimerization of VraR is essential for the phosphorylation-induced activation of VraR. A single point mutation in the dimerization interface of VraR, in which Met13 was replaced by Ala, led to the inability of VraR to dimerize and to bind optimally to the target promoter. The consequences of these in vitro molecular deficiencies are equally dramatic in vivo. Complementation of a vraR deletion S. aureus strain with the vraRM13Ala mutant gene failed to induce the cell wall stress response. Conclusions: This study highlights the potential of targeting the phosphorylation-induced dimerization of VraR to disrupt the S. aureus cell wall stress response and in turn to re-sensitize S. aureus to β-lactams and vancomycin.

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Tajbakhsh, G., & Golemi-Kotra, D. (2019). The dimerization interface in VraR is essential for induction of the cell wall stress response in Staphylococcus aureus: A potential druggable target. BMC Microbiology, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12866-019-1529-0

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