Evolution and pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus: lessons learned from genotyping and comparative genomics

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2008 Jan;32(1):23-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2007.00086.x. Epub 2007 Nov 5.


Staphylococcus aureus is an opportunistic pathogen and the major causative agent of numerous hospital- and community-acquired infections. Multilocus sequence typing reveals a highly clonal structure for S. aureus. Although infrequently occurring across clonal complexes, homologous recombination still contributed to the evolution of this species over the long term. agr-mediated bacterial interference has divided S. aureus into four groups, which are independent of clonality and provide another view on S. aureus evolution. Genome sequencing of nine S. aureus strains has helped identify a number of virulence factors, but the key determinants for infection are still unknown. Comparison of commensal and pathogenic strains shows no difference in diversity or clonal assignments. Thus, phage dynamics and global transcriptome shifts are considered to be responsible for the pathogenicity. Community-acquired methicillin-resistant S. aureus (C-MRSA) is characterized by a short SCCmec and the presence of a Panton-Valentine leukocidin locus, but no studies have proven their exact biologic roles in C-MRSA infection, indicating the existence of other mechanisms for the genesis of C-MRSA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Bacteriophages
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / microbiology
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Genomic Islands
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Methicillin Resistance
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Species Specificity
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / classification
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • Trans-Activators / physiology
  • Virulence Factors / biosynthesis
  • Virulence Factors / physiology


  • Agr protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Virulence Factors