Phenol-soluble modulins and staphylococcal infection

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2013 Oct;11(10):667-73. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3110. Epub 2013 Sep 10.


Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen and a leading cause of death worldwide. Phenol-soluble modulins (PSMs) have recently emerged as a novel toxin family defining the virulence potential of highly aggressive S. aureus isolates. PSMs have multiple roles in staphylococcal pathogenesis, causing lysis of red and white blood cells, stimulating inflammatory responses and contributing to biofilm development and the dissemination of biofilm-associated infections. Moreover, the pronounced capacity of PSMs to kill human neutrophils after phagocytosis might explain failures in the development of anti-staphylococcal vaccines. Here, we discuss recent progress made in our understanding of the biochemical and genetic properties of PSMs and their role in S. aureus pathogenesis, and suggest potential avenues to target PSMs for the development of anti-staphylococcal drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism*
  • Biofilms*
  • Biological Transport
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neutrophils / microbiology
  • Neutrophils / pathology
  • Phagocytosis
  • Quorum Sensing
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / pathology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Virulence Factors
  • staphylococcal delta toxin