The C-type lectin receptor MGL senses N-acetylgalactosamine on the unique Staphylococcus aureus ST395 wall teichoic acid

Cell Microbiol. 2019 Oct;21(10):e13072. doi: 10.1111/cmi.13072. Epub 2019 Jul 8.


Staphylococcus aureus is a common skin commensal but is also associated with various skin and soft tissue pathologies. Upon invasion, S. aureus is detected by resident innate immune cells through pattern-recognition receptors (PRRs), although a comprehensive understanding of the specific molecular interactions is lacking. Recently, we demonstrated that the PRR langerin (CD207) on epidermal Langerhans cells senses the conserved β-1,4-linked N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) modification on S. aureus wall teichoic acid (WTA), thereby increasing skin inflammation. Interestingly, the S. aureus ST395 lineage as well as certain species of coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) produce a structurally different WTA molecule, consisting of poly-glycerolphosphate with α-O-N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) residues, which are attached by the glycosyltransferase TagN. Here, we demonstrate that S. aureus ST395 strains interact with the human Macrophage galactose-type lectin (MGL; CD301) receptor, which is expressed by dendritic cells and macrophages in the dermis. MGL bound S. aureus ST395 in a tagN- and GalNAc-dependent manner but did not interact with different tagN-positive CoNS species. However, heterologous expression of Staphylococcus lugdunensis tagN in S. aureus conferred phage infection and MGL binding, confirming the role of this CoNS enzyme as GalNAc-transferase. Functionally, the detection of GalNAc on S. aureus ST395 WTA by human monocyte-derived dendritic cells significantly enhanced cytokine production. Together, our findings highlight differential recognition of S. aureus glycoprofiles by specific human innate receptors, which may affect downstream adaptive immune responses and pathogen clearance.

Keywords: C-type lectin receptor; innate immunity; microbial-cell interaction; staphylococci; virulence.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylgalactosamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Acetylgalactosamine / chemistry
  • Cell Wall / metabolism*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dermis / immunology
  • Dermis / microbiology
  • Glycerophosphates / chemistry
  • Glycosyltransferases / genetics
  • Glycosyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Lectins, C-Type / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mutation
  • Staphylococcus aureus / chemistry
  • Staphylococcus aureus / enzymology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / immunology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity
  • Staphylococcus lugdunensis / chemistry
  • Staphylococcus lugdunensis / enzymology
  • Teichoic Acids / chemistry*


  • Cytokines
  • Glycerophosphates
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • MGL lectin, human
  • Teichoic Acids
  • polyglycerolphosphate
  • Glycosyltransferases
  • Acetylgalactosamine