Regulation of virulence determinants in Staphylococcus aureus: complexity and applications

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2004 May;28(2):183-200. doi: 10.1016/j.femsre.2003.09.003.


The virulence of Staphylococcus aureus is essentially determined by cell wall associated proteins and secreted toxins that are regulated and expressed according to growth phases and/or growth conditions. Gene expression is regulated by specific and sensitive mechanisms, most of which act at the transcriptional level. Regulatory factors constitute numerous complex networks, driving specific interactions with target gene promoters. These factors are largely regulated by two-component regulatory systems, such as the agr, saeRS, srrAB, arlSR and lytRS systems. These systems are sensitive to environmental signals and consist of a sensor histidine kinase and a response regulator protein. DNA-binding proteins, such as SarA and the recently identified SarA homologues (SarR, Rot, SarS, SarT, SarU), also regulate virulence factor expression. These homologues might be intermediates in the regulatory networks. The multiple pathways generated by these factors allow the bacterium to adapt to environmental conditions rapidly and specifically, and to develop infection. Precise knowledge of these regulatory mechanisms and how they control virulence factor expression would open up new perspectives for antimicrobial chemotherapy using key inhibitors of these systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / genetics*


  • Virulence Factors