Human DNA methylation signatures differentiate persistent from resolving MRSA bacteremia

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Mar 9;118(10):e2000663118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2000663118.


Persistent methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia is life threatening and occurs in up to 30% of MRSA bacteremia cases despite appropriate antimicrobial therapy. Isolates of MRSA that cause antibiotic-persistent methicillin-resistant S. aureus bacteremia (APMB) typically have in vitro antibiotic susceptibilities equivalent to those causing antibiotic-resolving methicillin-resistant S. aureus bacteremia (ARMB). Thus, persistence reflects host-pathogen interactions occurring uniquely in context of antibiotic therapy in vivo. However, host factors and mechanisms involved in APMB remain unclear. We compared DNA methylomes in circulating immune cells from patients experiencing APMB vs. ARMB. Overall, methylation signatures diverged in the distinct patient cohorts. Differentially methylated sites intensified proximate to transcription factor binding sites, primarily in enhancer regions. In APMB patients, significant hypomethylation was observed in binding sites for CCAAT enhancer binding protein-β (C/EBPβ) and signal transducer/activator of transcription 1 (STAT1). In contrast, hypomethylation in ARMB patients localized to glucocorticoid receptor and histone acetyltransferase p300 binding sites. These distinct methylation signatures were enriched in neutrophils and achieved a mean area under the curve of 0.85 when used to predict APMB using a classification model. These findings validated by targeted bisulfite sequencing (TBS-seq) differentiate epigenotypes in patients experiencing APMB vs. ARMB and suggest a risk stratification strategy for antibiotic persistence in patients treated for MRSA bacteremia.

Keywords: DNA methylation; MRSA; Staphylococcus aureus; epigenetics; persistence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bacteremia / drug therapy
  • Bacteremia / metabolism*
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-beta / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Response Elements*
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcal Infections / metabolism*
  • p300-CBP Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-beta
  • CEBPB protein, human
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor
  • STAT1 protein, human
  • p300-CBP Transcription Factors
  • p300-CBP-associated factor