Structurally designed attenuated subunit vaccines for S. aureus LukS-PV and LukF-PV confer protection in a mouse bacteremia model

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 7;8(6):e65384. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065384. Print 2013.


Previous efforts towards S. aureus vaccine development have largely focused on cell surface antigens to induce opsonophagocytic killing aimed at providing sterile immunity, a concept successfully applied to other Gram-positive pathogens such as Streptococcus pneumoniae. However, these approaches have largely failed, possibly in part due to the remarkable diversity of the staphylococcal virulence factors such as secreted immunosuppressive and tissue destructive toxins. S. aureus produces several pore-forming toxins including the single subunit alpha hemolysin as well as bicomponent leukotoxins such as Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL), gamma hemolysins (Hlg), and LukED. Here we report the generation of highly attenuated mutants of PVL subunits LukS-PV and LukF-PV that were rationally designed, based on an octameric structural model of the toxin, to be deficient in oligomerization. The attenuated subunit vaccines were highly immunogenic and showed significant protection in a mouse model of S. aureus USA300 sepsis. Protection against sepsis was also demonstrated by passive transfer of rabbit immunoglobulin raised against LukS-PV. Antibodies to LukS-PV inhibited the homologous oligomerization of LukS-PV with LukF-PV as well heterologous oligomerization with HlgB. Importantly, immune sera from mice vaccinated with the LukS mutant not only inhibited the PMN lytic activity produced by the PVL-positive USA300 but also blocked PMN lysis induced by supernatants of PVL-negative strains suggesting a broad protective activity towards other bicomponent toxins. These findings strongly support the novel concept of an anti-virulence, toxin-based vaccine intended for prevention of clinical S. aureus invasive disease, rather than achieving sterile immunity. Such a multivalent vaccine may include attenuated leukotoxins, alpha hemolysin, and superantigens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology
  • Amino Acids
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / pharmacology
  • Bacteremia / immunology*
  • Bacteremia / microbiology
  • Bacteremia / prevention & control*
  • Bacterial Load / drug effects
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / immunology*
  • Bacterial Toxins / immunology
  • Cross Reactions / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Design
  • Exotoxins / immunology
  • Immunization
  • Leukocidins / chemistry
  • Leukocidins / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mutant Proteins / chemistry
  • Mutant Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Protein Multimerization / drug effects
  • Protein Stability / drug effects
  • Protein Unfolding / drug effects
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / immunology*
  • Temperature
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / chemistry
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / immunology*
  • Vaccines, Subunit / chemistry
  • Vaccines, Subunit / immunology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Amino Acids
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Exotoxins
  • Leukocidins
  • Mutant Proteins
  • Panton-Valentine leukocidin
  • Vaccines, Attenuated
  • Vaccines, Subunit
  • leukocidin S-component protein, Staphylococcus
  • LukF protein, Staphylococcus aureus