Phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C contributes to survival of Staphylococcus aureus USA300 in human blood and neutrophils

Infect Immun. 2014 Apr;82(4):1559-71. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01168-13. Epub 2014 Jan 22.


Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen that employs a large repertoire of secreted virulence factors to promote disease pathogenesis. Many strains of S. aureus possess a plc gene that encodes a phosphatidylinositol (PI)-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) capable of hydrolyzing PI and cleaving glycosyl-PI (GPI)-linked proteins from cell surfaces. Despite being secreted by virulent staphylococci, the contribution of PI-PLC to the capacity of S. aureus to cause disease remains undefined. Our goal in these studies was to understand PI-PLC in the context of S. aureus biology. Among a collection of genetically diverse clinical isolates of S. aureus, community-associated methicillin-resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA) USA300 secreted the most PI-PLC. Screening a collection of two-component system (TCS) mutants of S. aureus, we identified both the agr quorum-sensing system and the SrrAB TCS to be positive regulators of plc gene expression. Real-time PCR and PI-PLC enzyme assays of the TCS mutants, coupled with SrrA promoter binding studies, demonstrated that SrrAB was the predominant transcriptional activator of plc. Furthermore, plc regulation was linked to oxidative stress both in vitro and in vivo in a SrrAB-dependent manner. A Δplc mutant in a CA-MRSA USA300 background exhibited a survival defect in human whole blood and in isolated neutrophils. However, the same mutant strain displayed no survival defect in murine models of infection or murine whole blood. Overall, these data identify potential links between bacterial responses to the host innate immune system and to oxidative stress and suggest how PI-PLC could contribute to the pathogenesis of S. aureus infections.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Lipase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / enzymology
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity
  • Mice
  • Neutrophils / microbiology*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Phosphoinositide Phospholipase C / blood
  • Phosphoinositide Phospholipase C / physiology*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Staphylococcal Infections / immunology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / enzymology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity
  • Virulence / physiology


  • Lipase
  • Phosphoinositide Phospholipase C