A Tandem Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry-based Approach for Metabolite Analysis of Staphylococcus aureus

J Vis Exp. 2017 Mar 28:(121):55558. doi: 10.3791/55558.


In an effort to thwart bacterial pathogens, hosts often limit the availability of nutrients at the site of infection. This limitation can alter the abundances of key metabolites to which regulatory factors respond, adjusting cellular metabolism. In recent years, a number of proteins and RNA have emerged as important regulators of virulence gene expression. For example, the CodY protein responds to levels of branched-chain amino acids and GTP and is widely conserved in low G+C Gram-positive bacteria. As a global regulator in Staphylococcus aureus, CodY controls the expression of dozens of virulence and metabolic genes. We hypothesize that S. aureus uses CodY, in part, to alter its metabolic state in an effort to adapt to nutrient-limiting conditions potentially encountered in the host environment. This manuscript describes a method for extracting and analyzing metabolites from S. aureus using liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry, a protocol that was developed to test this hypothesis. The method also highlights best practices that will ensure rigor and reproducibility, such as maintaining biological steady state and constant aeration without the use of continuous chemostat cultures. Relative to the USA200 methicillin-susceptible S. aureus isolate UAMS-1 parental strain, the isogenic codY mutant exhibited significant increases in amino acids derived from aspartate (e.g., threonine and isoleucine) and decreases in their precursors (e.g., aspartate and O-acetylhomoserine). These findings correlate well with transcriptional data obtained with RNA-seq analysis: genes in these pathways were up-regulated between 10- and 800-fold in the codY null mutant. Coupling global analyses of the transcriptome and the metabolome can reveal how bacteria alter their metabolism when faced with environmental or nutritional stress, providing potential insight into the physiological changes associated with nutrient depletion experienced during infection. Such discoveries may pave the way for the development of novel anti-infectives and therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Mutation
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • CodY protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Virulence Factors