Novel Peptide from Commensal Staphylococcus simulans Blocks Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Quorum Sensing and Protects Host Skin from Damage

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2020 May 21;64(6):e00172-20. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00172-20. Print 2020 May 21.


Recent studies highlight the abundance of commensal coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) on healthy skin. Evidence suggests that CoNS actively shape the skin immunological and microbial milieu to resist colonization or infection by opportunistic pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), in a variety of mechanisms collectively termed colonization resistance. One potential colonization resistance mechanism is the application of quorum sensing, also called the accessory gene regulator (agr) system, which is ubiquitous among staphylococci. Common and rare CoNS make autoinducing peptides (AIPs) that function as MRSA agr inhibitors, protecting the host from invasive infection. In a screen of CoNS spent media, we found that Staphylococcus simulans, a rare human skin colonizer and frequent livestock colonizer, released potent inhibitors of all classes of MRSA agr signaling. We identified three S. simulans agr classes and have shown intraspecies cross talk between noncognate S. simulans agr types for the first time. The S. simulans AIP-I structure was confirmed, and the novel AIP-II and AIP-III structures were solved via mass spectrometry. Synthetic S. simulans AIPs inhibited MRSA agr signaling with nanomolar potency. S. simulans in competition with MRSA reduced dermonecrotic and epicutaneous skin injury in murine models. The addition of synthetic AIP-I also effectively reduced MRSA dermonecrosis and epicutaneous skin injury in murine models. These results demonstrate potent anti-MRSA quorum sensing inhibition by a rare human skin commensal and suggest that cross talk between CoNS and MRSA may be important in maintaining healthy skin homeostasis and preventing MRSA skin damage during colonization or acute infection.

Keywords: antimicrobial activity; colonization resistance; polymicrobial interactions; quorum sensing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus*
  • Mice
  • Peptides
  • Quorum Sensing
  • Staphylococcal Infections* / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcus


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Peptides

Supplementary concepts

  • Staphylococcus simulans