The Staphylococcus aureus ArlRS two-component system regulates virulence factor expression through MgrA

Mol Microbiol. 2020 Jan;113(1):103-122. doi: 10.1111/mmi.14404. Epub 2019 Nov 6.


The Gram-positive bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus, is a versatile pathogen that can sense and adapt to a wide variety of environments within the human host, in part through its 16 two-component regulatory systems. The ArlRS two-component system has been shown to affect many cellular processes in S. aureus, including autolysis, biofilm formation, capsule synthesis and virulence. Yet the molecular details of this regulation remained largely unknown. We used RNA sequencing to identify the ArlRS regulon, and found 70% overlap with that of the global regulator MgrA. These genes included cell wall-anchored adhesins (ebh, sdrD), polysaccharide and capsule synthesis genes, cell wall remodeling genes (lytN, ddh), the urease operon, genes involved in metal transport (feoA, mntH, sirA), anaerobic metabolism genes (adhE, pflA, nrdDG) and a large number of virulence factors (lukSF, lukAB, nuc, gehB, norB, chs, scn and esxA). We show that ArlR directly activates expression of mgrA and identify a probable ArlR-binding site (TTTTCTCAT-N4 -TTTTAATAA). A highly similar sequence is also found in the spx P2 promoter, which was recently shown to be regulated by ArlRS. We also demonstrate that ArlS has kinase activity toward ArlR in vitro, although it has slower kinetics than other similar histidine kinases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Protein Kinases / genetics*
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / genetics*
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism


  • ArlR protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Virulence Factors
  • Protein Kinases
  • ArlS protein, Staphylococcus aureus