A nasal epithelial receptor for Staphylococcus aureus WTA governs adhesion to epithelial cells and modulates nasal colonization

PLoS Pathog. 2014 May 1;10(5):e1004089. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004089. eCollection 2014 May.


Nasal colonization is a major risk factor for S. aureus infections. The mechanisms responsible for colonization are still not well understood and involve several factors on the host and the bacterial side. One key factor is the cell wall teichoic acid (WTA) of S. aureus, which governs direct interactions with nasal epithelial surfaces. We report here the first receptor for the cell wall glycopolymer WTA on nasal epithelial cells. In several assay systems this type F-scavenger receptor, termed SREC-I, bound WTA in a charge dependent manner and mediated adhesion to nasal epithelial cells in vitro. The impact of WTA and SREC-I interaction on epithelial adhesion was especially pronounced under shear stress, which resembles the conditions found in the nasal cavity. Most importantly, we demonstrate here a key role of the WTA-receptor interaction in a cotton rat model of nasal colonization. When we inhibited WTA mediated adhesion with a SREC-I antibody, nasal colonization in the animal model was strongly reduced at the early onset of colonization. More importantly, colonization stayed low over an extended period of 6 days. Therefore we propose targeting of this glycopolymer-receptor interaction as a novel strategy to prevent or control S. aureus nasal colonization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion / genetics*
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Humans
  • Nasal Cavity / microbiology*
  • Rats
  • Scavenger Receptors, Class F / metabolism
  • Scavenger Receptors, Class F / physiology*
  • Sigmodontinae
  • Staphylococcal Infections / genetics
  • Staphylococcal Infections / metabolism
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology*
  • Teichoic Acids / metabolism*


  • SCARF1 protein, human
  • Scavenger Receptors, Class F
  • Teichoic Acids

Grant support

This study was supported by German Research Foundation Grant TR-SFB34 (CW and TR) and by German Research Foundation Grant SFB766 (CW). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.