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Infect Immun. 2010 Apr;78(4):1717-27. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01065-09. Epub 2010 Jan 25.

Clumping factor A interaction with complement factor I increases C3b cleavage on the bacterial surface of Staphylococcus aureus and decreases complement-mediated phagocytosis.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia, USA.


The human complement system is important in the immunological control of Staphylococcus aureus infection. We showed previously that S. aureus surface protein clumping factor A (ClfA), when expressed in recombinant form, bound complement control protein factor I and increased factor I cleavage of C3b to iC3b. In the present study, we show that, compared to the results for the wild type, when isogenic ClfA-deficient S. aureus mutants were incubated in serum, they bound less factor I, generated less iC3b on the bacterial surface, and bound fewer C3 fragments. It has been shown previously that two amino acids in ClfA (P(336) and Y(338)) are essential for fibrinogen binding. However, S. aureus expressing ClfA(P336A Y338S) was less virulent than ClfA-deficient strains in animal models. This suggested that ClfA contributed to S. aureus virulence by a mechanism different than fibrinogen binding. In the present study, we showed that S. aureus expressing ClfA(P336A Y338S) was more susceptible to complement-mediated phagocytosis than a ClfA-null mutant or the wild type. Unlike ClfA, ClfA(P336A Y338S) did not enhance factor I cleavage of C3b to iC3b and inhibited the cofactor function of factor H. Fibrinogen enhanced factor I binding to ClfA and the S. aureus surface. Twenty clinical S. aureus strains all expressed ClfA and bound factor I. High levels of factor I binding by clinical strains correlated with poor phagocytosis. In summary, our results suggest that the interaction of ClfA with factor I contributes to S. aureus virulence by a complement-mediated mechanism.

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