Genetic requirements for Staphylococcus aureus nitric oxide resistance and virulence

PLoS Pathog. 2018 Mar 19;14(3):e1006907. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006907. eCollection 2018 Mar.


Staphylococcus aureus exhibits many defenses against host innate immunity, including the ability to replicate in the presence of nitric oxide (NO·). S. aureus NO· resistance is a complex trait and hinges on the ability of this pathogen to metabolically adapt to the presence of NO·. Here, we employed deep sequencing of transposon junctions (Tn-Seq) in a library generated in USA300 LAC to define the complete set of genes required for S. aureus NO· resistance. We compared the list of NO·-resistance genes to the set of genes required for LAC to persist within murine skin infections (SSTIs). In total, we identified 168 genes that were essential for full NO· resistance, of which 49 were also required for S. aureus to persist within SSTIs. Many of these NO·-resistance genes were previously demonstrated to be required for growth in the presence of this immune radical. However, newly defined genes, including those encoding SodA, MntABC, RpoZ, proteins involved with Fe-S-cluster repair/homeostasis, UvrABC, thioredoxin-like proteins and the F1F0 ATPase, have not been previously reported to contribute to S. aureus NO· resistance. The most striking finding was that loss of any genes encoding components of the F1F0 ATPase resulted in mutants unable to grow in the presence of NO· or any other condition that inhibits cellular respiration. In addition, these mutants were highly attenuated in murine SSTIs. We show that in S. aureus, the F1F0 ATPase operates in the ATP-hydrolysis mode to extrude protons and contribute to proton-motive force. Loss of efficient proton extrusion in the ΔatpG mutant results in an acidified cytosol. While this acidity is tolerated by respiring cells, enzymes required for fermentation cannot operate efficiently at pH ≤ 7.0 and the ΔatpG mutant cannot thrive. Thus, S. aureus NO· resistance requires a mildly alkaline cytosol, a condition that cannot be achieved without an active F1F0 ATPase enzyme complex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Gene Library
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nitric Oxide / pharmacology*
  • Staphylococcal Skin Infections / genetics
  • Staphylococcal Skin Infections / immunology*
  • Staphylococcal Skin Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / immunology
  • Virulence / drug effects
  • Virulence / genetics
  • Virulence / immunology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Nitric Oxide