A small membrane stabilising protein critical to the pathogenicity of Staphylococcus aureus
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article (Academic Journal) › peer-review
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Staphylococcus aureus is a major human pathogen, where the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains is making all types of S. aureus infections more challenging to treat. With a pressing need to develop alternative control strategies to use alongside or in place of conventional antibiotics, one approach is the targeting of established virulence factors. However, attempts at this have had little success to date, suggesting that we need to better understand how this pathogen causes disease if effective targets are to be identified. To address this, using a functional genomics approach we have identified a small membrane bound protein that we have called MspA. Inactivation of this protein results in the loss of the ability of S. aureus to secrete cytolytic toxins, protect itself from several aspects of the human innate immune system and control its iron homeostasis. These changes appear to be mediated though a change in the stability of the bacterial membrane as a consequence of iron toxicity. These pleiotropic effects on the ability of the pathogen to interact with its host result in a significant impairment in the ability of S. aureus to cause infection in both a subcutaneous and sepsis model of infection. Given the scale of the effect the inactivation of MspA causes, it represents a unique and promising target for the development of a novel therapeutic approach.