Variations in amount of TSST-1 produced by clinical methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates and allelic variation in accessory gene regulator (agr) locus

BMC Microbiol. 2009 Mar 10;9:52. doi: 10.1186/1471-2180-9-52.


Background: Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is an important pathogen associated with both nosocomial and community-acquired infections and its pathogenicity is attributed to its potential to produce virulence factors. Since the amount of toxin produced is related to virulence, evaluating toxin production should be useful for controlling S. aureus infection. We previously found that some strains produce relatively large amounts of TSST-1; however, no reports have described the amount of TSST-1 produced by clinical isolates.

Methods: Amounts of TSST-1 produced by clinical methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA) isolates were measured by Western blotting. We determined their accessory gene regulator (agr) class by PCR and investigated whether TSST-1 production correlates with variations in the class and structure of the agr.

Results: We found that 75% of surveyed MRSA isolates (n = 152) possessed the tst gene and that 96.7% belonged to agr class 2. The concentrations of TSST-1 secreted into culture supernatants by 34 strains measured by Western blotting differed 170-fold. Sequencing the entire agr locus (n = 9) revealed that some had allelic variations regardless of the amount of TSST-1 produced whereas sequencing the sar, sigma factor B and the tst promoter region revealed no significant changes.

Conclusion: The amounts of TSST-1 produced by clinical MRSA isolates varied. The present results suggest that TSST-1 production is not directly associated with the agr structure, but is instead controlled by unknown transcriptional/translational regulatory systems, or synthesized by multiple regulatory mechanisms that are interlinked in a complex manner.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Toxins / genetics
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism*
  • Enterotoxins / genetics
  • Enterotoxins / metabolism*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / genetics*
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Superantigens / genetics
  • Superantigens / metabolism*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics*
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Virulence


  • Agr protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Enterotoxins
  • Superantigens
  • Trans-Activators
  • enterotoxin F, Staphylococcal