Host-Receptor Post-Translational Modifications Refine Staphylococcal Leukocidin Cytotoxicity

Toxins (Basel). 2020 Feb 6;12(2):106. doi: 10.3390/toxins12020106.


Staphylococcal bi-component pore-forming toxins, also known as leukocidins, target and lyse human phagocytes in a receptor-dependent manner. S-components of the leukocidins Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL), γ-haemolysin AB (HlgAB) and CB (HlgCB), and leukocidin ED (LukED) specifically employ receptors that belong to the class of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Although these receptors share a common structural architecture, little is known about the conserved characteristics of the interaction between leukocidins and GPCRs. In this study, we investigated host cellular pathways contributing to susceptibility towards S. aureus leukocidin cytotoxicity. We performed a genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 library screen for toxin-resistance in U937 cells sensitized to leukocidins by ectopic expression of different GPCRs. Our screen identifies post-translational modification (PTM) pathways involved in the sulfation and sialylation of the leukocidin-receptors. Subsequent validation experiments show differences in the impact of PTM moieties on leukocidin toxicity, highlighting an additional layer of refinement and divergence in the staphylococcal host-pathogen interface. Leukocidin receptors may serve as targets for anti-staphylococcal interventions and understanding toxin-receptor interactions will facilitate the development of innovative therapeutics. Variations in the genes encoding PTM pathways could provide insight into observed differences in susceptibility of humans to infections with S. aureus.

Keywords: G-protein coupled receptors; Staphylococcus aureus; bi-component pore-forming toxins; leukocidins; post-translational modifications; receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Host Microbial Interactions / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Leukocidins / genetics
  • Leukocidins / metabolism
  • Leukocidins / toxicity*
  • Phagocytes / microbiology
  • Phagocytes / pathology
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / pathology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • U937 Cells


  • Leukocidins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled