Novel phenol-soluble modulin derivatives in community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus identified through imaging mass spectrometry

J Biol Chem. 2012 Apr 20;287(17):13889-98. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.349860. Epub 2012 Feb 27.


Staphylococcus aureus causes a wide range of human disease ranging from localized skin and soft tissue infections to potentially lethal systemic infections. S. aureus has the biosynthetic ability to generate numerous virulence factors that assist in circumventing the innate immune system during disease pathogenesis. Recent studies have uncovered a set of extracellular peptides produced by community-associated methicillin-resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA) with homology to the phenol-soluble modulins (PSMs) from Staphylococcus epidermidis. CA-MRSA PSMs contribute to skin infection and recruit and lyse neutrophils, and truncated versions of these peptides possess antimicrobial activity. In this study, novel CA-MRSA PSM derivatives were discovered by the use of microbial imaging mass spectrometry. The novel PSM derivatives are compared with their parent full-length peptides for changes in hemolytic, cytolytic, and neutrophil-stimulating activity. A potential contribution of the major S. aureus secreted protease aureolysin in processing PSMs is demonstrated. Finally, we show that PSM processing occurs in multiple CA-MRSA strains by structural confirmation of additional novel derivatives. This work demonstrates that IMS can serve as a useful tool to go beyond genome predictions and expand our understanding of the important family of small peptide virulence factors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Toxins / chemistry
  • Erythrocytes / cytology
  • Hemolysis
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Metalloendopeptidases / chemistry
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neutrophils / cytology
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Phenol / chemistry*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Sheep
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Staphylococcal Skin Infections / microbiology
  • Virulence Factors / chemistry


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Virulence Factors
  • Phenol
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • aureolysin