Importance of the global regulators Agr and SaeRS in the pathogenesis of CA-MRSA USA300 infection

PLoS One. 2010 Dec 2;5(12):e15177. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015177.


CA-MRSA infection, driven by the emergence of the USA300 genetic background, has become epidemic in the United States. USA300 isolates are hypervirulent, compared with other CA- and HA-MRSA strains, in experimental models of necrotizing pneumonia and skin infection. Interestingly, USA300 isolates also have increased expression of core genomic global regulatory and virulence factor genes, including agr and saeRS. To test the hypothesis that agr and saeRS promote the observed hypervirulent phenotype of USA300, isogenic deletion mutants of each were constructed in USA300. The effects of gene deletion on expression and protein abundance of selected downstream virulence genes were assessed by semiquantitative real-time reverse-transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) and western blot, respectively. The effects of gene deletion were also assessed in mouse models of necrotizing pneumonia and skin infection. Deletion of saeRS, and, to a lesser extent, agr, resulted in attenuated expression of the genes encoding α-hemolysin (hla) and the Panton-Valentine leukocidin (lukSF-PV). Despite the differences in hla transcription, the toxin was undetectable in culture supernatants of either of the deletion mutants. Deletion of agr, but not saeRS, markedly increased the expression of the gene encoding protein A (spa), which correlated with increased protein abundance. Each deletion mutant demonstrated significant attenuation of virulence, compared with wild-type USA300, in mouse models of necrotizing pneumonia and skin infection. We conclude that agr and saeRS each independently contribute to the remarkable virulence of USA300, likely by means of their effects on expression of secreted toxins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Toxins / genetics
  • Exotoxins / genetics
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Hemolysin Proteins / genetics
  • Leukocidins / genetics
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Kinases / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Trans-Activators / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / genetics


  • Agr protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Exotoxins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Leukocidins
  • Panton-Valentine leukocidin
  • SaeR protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors
  • Virulence Factors
  • staphylococcal alpha-toxin
  • Protein Kinases
  • SaeS protein, Staphylococcus aureus