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Infect Immun. Sep 1994; 62(9): 3850–3858.
PMCID: PMC303040

Staphylococci express a receptor for human transferrin: identification of a 42-kilodalton cell wall transferrin-binding protein.


Staphylococcus aureus and the coagulase-negative staphylococci are commonly responsible for peritonitis in renal patients undergoing continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis. To simulate growth conditions in vivo, staphylococci isolated from peritoneal infections were cultured in used human peritoneal dialysate (HPD). Immunoblotting experiments using cell wall preparations from these staphylococci revealed the presence of the host iron-binding glycoprotein transferrin bound to S. aureus, S. epidermidis, S. capitis, S. haemolyticus, and S. hominis but not to S. warneri or S. saprophyticus. Similar results were obtained by incubating broth-grown staphylococci with human transferrin, although, in contrast to S. aureus, the coagulase-negative staphylococci bound more transferrin after growth in iron-restricted broth. To determine whether the staphylococci express a saturable specific receptor for human transferrin, the interaction of human 125I-transferrin with the staphylococci was examined. Both S. aureus and S. epidermidis bound the radiolabelled iron-saturated ligand in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. From competition binding assays, the affinity (Kd) and number of receptors were estimated for S. epidermidis (Kd, 0.27 microM; 4,200 receptors per cell) and S. aureus (Kd, 0.28 microM; 4,200 receptors per cell). S. epidermidis but not S. aureus receptor activity was partially iron regulated. Human apotransferrin and iron-saturated transferrin and rabbit and rat transferrins competed equally well for the staphylococcal receptor. Bovine and porcine transferrins and ovotransferrin as well as human and bovine lactoferrins were much less effective at competing with human transferrin. Treatment of whole staphylococci with protease abolished transferrin binding, indicating the involvement of cell surface protein. Western blots (immunoblots) of cell wall preparations probed with human transferrin revealed the presence of a 42-kDa transferrin-binding protein common to both S. aureus and S. epidermidis. On Western strip blots, the binding of human transferrin to this protein was blocked by labelled human transferrin but not by albumin, immunoglobulin G, or bovine transferrin or ovotransferrin. To assess the conservation of the 42-kDa transferrin-binding protein, cell wall proteins of S. epidermidis, S. haemolyticus, S. capitis, S. hominis, S. warneri, and S. saprophyticus were Western blotted and probed with human transferrin. Only S. warneri and S. saprophyticus lacked the 42-kDa wall protein, consistent with their inability to bind transferrin. These data show that the staphylococci express a specific receptor for human transferrin based at least in part on a common 42-kDa cell wall protein.

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Selected References

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