Structure-based discovery of a small-molecule inhibitor of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus virulence
TheÂ rapid emergence and dissemination of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains poses a major threat to public health. MRSA possesses an arsenal of secreted host-damaging virulence factors that mediate pathogenicity and blunt immune defenses. Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) and Î±-toxin are exotoxins that create lytic pores in the host cell membrane.Â They are recognized as being important for the development of invasive MRSA infections and are thus potential targets for antivirulence therapies. Here, we report the high-resolution X-ray crystal structures of both PVL and Î±-toxin in their soluble, monomeric and oligomeric membrane-inserted pore states in complex with n-tetradecylphosphocholine (C14PC).Â The structures revealed two evolutionarily conserved phosphatidylcholine-binding mechanisms and their roles in modulating host cell attachment, oligomer assembly, and membrane perforation. Moreover, we demonstrate that the soluble C14PC compound protects primary human immune cells in vitro against cytolysis by PVL and Î±-toxin and hence may serve as the basis for the development of an antivirulence agent for managing MRSA infections.
All major cholesterol-dependent cytolysins use glycans as cellular receptors
Cholesterol-dependent cytolysins (CDCs) form pores in cholesterol-rich membranes, but cholesterol alone is insufficient to explain their cell and host tropism. Here, we show that all eight major CDCs have high-affinity lectin activity that identifies glycans as candidate cellular receptors. Streptolysin O, vaginolysin, and perfringolysin O bind multiple glycans, while pneumolysin, lectinolysin, and listeriolysin O recognize a single glycan class. Addition of exogenous carbohydrate receptors for each CDC inhibits toxin activity. We present a structure for suilysin domain 4 in complex with two distinct glycan receptors, P1 antigen and Î±Gal/Galili. We report a wide range of binding affinities for cholesterol and for the cholesterol analog pregnenolone sulfate and show that CDCs bind glycans and cholesterol independently. Intermedilysin binds to the sialyl-TF O-glycan on its erythrocyte receptor, CD59. Removing sialyl-TF from CD59 reduces intermedilysin binding. Glycan-lectin interactions underpin the cellular tropism of CDCs and provide molecular targets to block their cytotoxic activity.
Unbiased identification of immunogenic Staphylococcus aureus leukotoxin B-cell epitopes
Unbiased identification of individual, immunogenic B-cell epitopes in major antigens of a pathogen remains a technology challenge for vaccine discovery. We therefore developed a platform for rapid phage display screening of deep recombinant libraries consisting of as little as a single major pathogen antigen. Using the bi-component pore-forming leukocidin (Luks) exotoxins of the major pathogen Staphylococcus aureus (Sa) as a prototype, we randomly fragmented and separately ligated the Hemolysin gamma A (HlgA) and LukS genes into a custom-built, phage-display system, termed pComb-Opti8. Deep sequence analysis of barcoded amplimers of the HlgA and LukS gene fragment libraries demonstrated that biopannng against a cross-reactive anti-Luk mAb recovered convergent molecular clones with short overlapping homologous sequences. We thereby identified an 11-amino acid sequence that is highly conserved in four Luk toxin subunits, and is ubiquitous in representation within Sa clinical isolates. The isolated 11-amino acid peptide probe was predicted to retain the native 3D-conformation seen within the Luk holotoxin. Indeed, this peptide was recognized by the selecting anti-Luk mAb, and using mutated peptides we showed that a particular amino acid side-chain was essential for these interactions. Furthermore, murine immunization with this peptide elicited IgG-responses that were highly reactive with both the autologous synthetic peptide and the full-length Luk toxin homologues. Thus, using a gene fragment, phage-display based pipeline, we have identified and validated immunogenic B-cell epitopes that are cross-reactive between members of the pore-forming leukocidin family. This approach could be harnessed to identify novel epitopes for a much needed Sa-protective subunit vaccine.
Repurposed Drugs That Block the Gonococcus-Complement Receptor 3 Interaction Can Prevent and Cure Gonococcal Infection of Primary Human Cervical Epithelial Cells
In the absence of a vaccine, multidrug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae has emerged as a major human health threat, and new approaches to treat gonorrhea are urgently needed. N. gonorrhoeae pili are posttranslationally modified by a glycan that terminates in a galactose. The terminal galactose is critical for initial contact with the human cervical mucosa via an interaction with the I-domain of complement receptor 3 (CR3). We have now identified the I-domain galactose-binding epitope and characterized its galactose-specific lectin activity. Using surface plasmon resonance and cellular infection assays, we found that a peptide mimic of this galactose-binding region competitively inhibited the N. gonorrhoeae-CR3 interaction. A compound library was screened for potential drugs that could similarly prohibit the N. gonorrhoeae-CR3 interaction and be repurposed as novel host-targeted therapeutics for multidrug-resistant gonococcal infections in women. Two drugs, methyldopa and carbamazepine, prevented and cured cervical cell infection by multidrug-resistant gonococci by blocking the gonococcal-CR3 I-domain interaction.IMPORTANCE Novel therapies that avert the problem of Neisseria gonorrhoeae with acquired antibiotic resistance are urgently needed. Gonococcal infection of the human cervix is initiated by an interaction between a galactose modification made to its surface appendages, pili, and the I-domain region of (host) complement receptor 3 (CR3). By targeting this crucial gonococcal-I-domain interaction, it may be possible to prevent cervical infection in females. To this end, we identified the I-domain galactose-binding epitope of CR3 and characterized its galactose lectin activity. Moreover, we identified two drugs, carbamazepine and methyldopa, as effective host-targeted therapies for gonorrhea treatment. At doses below those currently used for their respective existing indications, both carbamazepine and methyldopa were more effective than ceftriaxone in curing cervical infection ex vivo This host-targeted approach would not be subject to N. gonorrhoeae drug resistance mechanisms. Thus, our data suggest a long-term solution to the growing problem of multidrug-resistant N. gonorrhoeae infections.
Autophagy and microbial pathogenesis
Autophagy is a cell biological process that promotes resilience in the face of environmental perturbations. Given that infectious agents represent a major type of environmental threat, it follows that the autophagy pathway is central to the outcome of host-microbe interactions. Detailed molecular studies have revealed intricate ways in which autophagy suppresses or enhances the fitness of infectious agents, particularly intracellular pathogens such as viruses that require the host cell machinery for replication. Findings in animal models have reinforced the importance of these events that occur within individual cells and have extended the role of autophagy to extracellular microbes and immunity at the whole organism level. These functions impact adaptation to bacteria that are part of the gut microbiota, which has implications for the etiology of chronic disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease. Despite major advances in how autophagy regulates inflammatory reactions toward microbes, many challenges remain, including distinguishing autophagy from closely related pathways such as LC3-associated phagocytosis. Here, we review the role of autophagy in microbial pathogenesis at the level of organismal biology. In addition to providing an overview of the prominent function of autophagy proteins in host-microbe interactions, we highlight how observations at the cellular level are informing pathogenesis studies and offer our perspective on the future directions of the field.
Exploiting species specificity to understand the tropism of a human-specific toxin
Many pathogens produce virulence factors that are specific toward their natural host. Clinically relevant methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates are highly adapted to humans and produce an array of human-specific virulence factors. One such factor is LukAB, a recently identified pore-forming toxin that targets human phagocytes by binding to the integrin component CD11b. LukAB exhibits strong tropism toward human, but not murine, CD11b. Here, phylogenetics and biochemical studies lead to the identification of an 11-residue domain required for the specificity of LukAB toward human CD11b, which is sufficient to render murine CD11b compatible with toxin binding. CRISPR-mediated gene editing was used to replace this domain, resulting in a "humanized" mouse. In vivo studies revealed that the humanized mice exhibit enhanced susceptibility to MRSA bloodstream infection, a phenotype mediated by LukAB. Thus, these studies establish LukAB as an important toxin for MRSA bacteremia and describe a new mouse model to study MRSA pathobiology.
Decoy exosomes provide protection against bacterial toxins
The production of pore-forming toxins that disrupt the plasma membrane of host cells is a common virulence strategy for bacterial pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)1-3. It is unclear, however, whether host species possess innate immune mechanisms that can neutralize pore-forming toxins during infection. We previously showed thatÂ the autophagy protein ATG16L1 is necessary for protection against MRSA strains encoding Î±-toxin4-a pore-forming toxin that binds the metalloprotease ADAM10 on the surface of a broad range of target cells and tissues2,5,6. Autophagy typically involves the targeting of cytosolic material to the lysosome for degradation. Here we demonstrate that ATG16L1 and other ATG proteins mediate protection against Î±-toxin through the release of ADAM10 on exosomes-extracellular vesicles of endosomal origin. Bacterial DNA and CpG DNA induce the secretion of ADAM10-bearing exosomes from human cells as well as in mice. Transferred exosomes protect host cells in vitro by serving as scavengers that can bind multiple toxins, and improve the survival of mice infected with MRSA in vivo. These findings indicate that ATG proteins mediate a previously unknown form of defence in response to infection, facilitating the release of exosomes that serve as decoys for bacterially produced toxins.
The purine biosynthesis regulator PurR moonlights as a virulence regulator in Staphylococcus aureus
The pathogen Staphylococcus aureus colonizes and infects a variety of different sites within the human body. To adapt to these different environments, S. aureus relies on a complex and finely tuned regulatory network. While some of these networks have been well-elucidated, the functions of more than 50% of the transcriptional regulators in S. aureus remain unexplored. Here, we assess the contribution of the LacI family of metabolic regulators to staphylococcal virulence. We found that inactivating the purine biosynthesis regulator purR resulted in a strain that was acutely virulent in bloodstream infection models in mice and in ex vivo models using primary human neutrophils. Remarkably, these enhanced pathogenic traits are independent of purine biosynthesis, as the purR mutant was still highly virulent in the presence of mutations that disrupt PurR's canonical role. Through the use of transcriptomics coupled with proteomics, we revealed that a number of virulence factors are differentially regulated in the absence of purR Indeed, we demonstrate that PurR directly binds to the promoters of genes encoding virulence factors and to master regulators of virulence. These results guided us into further ex vivo and in vivo studies, where we discovered that S. aureus toxins drive the death of human phagocytes and mice, whereas the surface adhesin FnbA contributes to the increased bacterial burden observed in the purR mutant. Thus, S. aureus repurposes a metabolic regulator to directly control the expression of virulence factors, and by doing so, tempers its pathogenesis.
Serologic Detection of Antibodies Targeting the Leukocidin LukAB Strongly Predicts Staphylococcus aureus in Children With Invasive Infection
Background/UNASSIGNED:Staphylococcus aureus is among the most commonly identified causes of invasive bacterial infection in children; however, reliable results from cultures of sterile-site samples often cannot be obtained, which necessitates prescription of a broad empiric antimicrobial agent(s). Children with invasive S aureus infection rapidly generate high antibody titers to the cytotoxin LukAB; therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the diagnostic utility of an anti-LukAB antibody assay for children with musculoskeletal infection (MSKI). Methods/UNASSIGNED:We conducted a 2-year prospective study of all eligible children admitted to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital with an MSKI. Acute and convalescent sera were obtained, and antibodies that target LukAB were measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results/UNASSIGNED:Forty-two children were enrolled. The median concentrations of LukAB antibodies for children with S aureus infection were 130.3 U/mL in the acute phase and 455 U/mL in the convalescent phase (P < .001). The median concentrations of LukAB antibodies in children with a non-S aureus MSKI were 8.6 U/mL in the acute phase and 9.7 U/mL in the convalescent phase. The assay discriminated between S aureus and non-S aureus infection with areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.81 (95% confidence interval, 0.67-0.95; P < .001) and 0.95 (95% confidence interval, 0.86-1; P < .001) for samples tested in the acute and follow-up periods, respectively. With no false-negative results, the assay accurately ruled out S aureus in samples obtained during the convalescent phase. Conclusion/UNASSIGNED:Culture-independent diagnostics have the potential to improve care by narrowing antimicrobial therapy on the basis of the likelihood of S aureus infection. The results of this proof-of-concept study suggest that a LukAB serologic assay might be useful in the diagnosis of invasive bacterial infections, and larger-scale validation studies are warranted.
Vasculature-associated fat macrophages readily adapt to inflammatory and metabolic challenges
Tissue-resident macrophages are the most abundant immune cell population in healthy adipose tissue. Adipose tissue macrophages (ATMs) change during metabolic stress and are thought to contribute to metabolic syndrome. Here, we studied ATM subpopulations in steady state and in response to nutritional and infectious challenges. We found that tissue-resident macrophages from healthy epididymal white adipose tissue (eWAT) tightly associate with blood vessels, displaying very high endocytic capacity. We refer to these cells as vasculature-associated ATMs (VAMs). Chronic high-fat diet (HFD) results in the accumulation of a monocyte-derived CD11c+CD64+ double-positive (DP) macrophage eWAT population with a predominant anti-inflammatory/detoxifying gene profile, but reduced endocytic function. In contrast, fasting rapidly and reversibly leads to VAM depletion, while acute inflammatory stress induced by pathogens transiently depletes VAMs and simultaneously boosts DP macrophage accumulation. Our results indicate that ATM populations dynamically adapt to metabolic stress and inflammation, suggesting an important role for these cells in maintaining tissue homeostasis.