Metabolic Cross-talk Between Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells and Internalized Staphylococcus aureus as a Driver for Infection

Mol Cell Proteomics. 2019 May;18(5):892-908. doi: 10.1074/mcp.RA118.001138. Epub 2019 Feb 26.


Staphylococcus aureus is infamous for causing recurrent infections of the human respiratory tract. This is a consequence of its ability to adapt to different niches, including the intracellular milieu of lung epithelial cells. To understand the dynamic interplay between epithelial cells and the intracellular pathogen, we dissected their interactions over 4 days by mass spectrometry. Additionally, we investigated the dynamics of infection through live cell imaging, immunofluorescence and electron microscopy. The results highlight a major role of often overlooked temporal changes in the bacterial and host metabolism, triggered by fierce competition over limited resources. Remarkably, replicating bacteria reside predominantly within membrane-enclosed compartments and induce apoptosis of the host within ∼24 h post infection. Surviving infected host cells carry a subpopulation of non-replicating bacteria in the cytoplasm that persists. Altogether, we conclude that, besides the production of virulence factors by bacteria, it is the way in which intracellular resources are used, and how host and intracellular bacteria subsequently adapt to each other that determines the ultimate outcome of the infectious process.

Keywords: Apoptosis*; Autophagy; Bacteria; Energy metabolism; Host-Pathogen Interaction; Infectious disease; Staphylococcus aureus; bronchial epithelial cells; in vivo proteomics; persister; population heterogeneity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bronchi / pathology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Endocytosis*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology*
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Proteome / metabolism
  • Staphylococcal Infections / pathology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / ultrastructure


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Proteome