Discovery of an antivirulence compound that targets the Staphylococcus aureus SaeRS two-component system to inhibit toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 production

J Biol Chem. 2024 Jul;300(7):107455. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2024.107455. Epub 2024 Jun 7.


Menstrual toxic shock syndrome (mTSS) is a rare but severe disorder associated with the use of menstrual products such as high-absorbency tampons and is caused by Staphylococcus aureus strains that produce the toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1) superantigen. Herein, we screened a library of 3920 small bioactive molecules for the ability to inhibit transcription of the TSST-1 gene without inhibiting the growth of S. aureus. The dominant positive regulator of TSST-1 is the SaeRS two-component system (TCS), and we identified phenazopyridine hydrochloride (PP-HCl) that repressed the production of TSST-1 by inhibiting the kinase function of SaeS. PP-HCl competed with ATP for binding of the kinase SaeS leading to decreased phosphorylation of SaeR and reduced expression of TSST-1 as well as several other secreted virulence factors known to be regulated by SaeRS. PP-HCl targets the virulence of S. aureus, and it also decreases the impact of TSST-1 on human lymphocytes without affecting the healthy vaginal microbiota. Our findings demonstrate the promising potential of PP-HCl as a therapeutic strategy against mTSS.

Keywords: Staphylococcus aureus; TSST-1; anti-virulent; mTSS; phenazopyridine hydrochloride.