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Infect Genet Evol. 2013 Oct;19:7-14. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2013.06.012. Epub 2013 Jun 19.

Staphylococcus aureus innate immune evasion is lineage-specific: a bioinfomatics study.

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  • 1Division of Clinical Sciences, St George's University of London, London, UK. Electronic address:


Staphylococcus aureus is a major human pathogen, and is targeted by the host innate immune system. In response, S. aureus genomes encode dozens of secreted proteins that inhibit complement, chemotaxis and neutrophil activation resulting in successful evasion of innate immune responses. These proteins include immune evasion cluster proteins (IEC; Chp, Sak, Scn), staphylococcal superantigen-like proteins (SSLs), phenol soluble modulins (PSMs) and several leukocidins. Biochemical studies have indicated that genetic variants of these proteins can have unique functions. To ascertain the scale of genetic variation in secreted immune evasion proteins, whole genome sequences of 88 S. aureus isolates, representing 25 clonal complex (CC) lineages, in the public domain were analysed across 43 genes encoding 38 secreted innate immune evasion protein complexes. Twenty-three genes were variable, with between 2 and 15 variants, and the variants had lineage-specific distributions. They include genes encoding Eap, Ecb, Efb, Flipr/Flipr-like, Hla, Hld, Hlg, Sbi, Scin-B/C and 13 SSLs. Most of these protein complexes inhibit complement, chemotaxis and neutrophil activation suggesting that isolates from each S. aureus lineage respond to the innate immune system differently. In contrast, protein complexes that lyse neutrophils (LukSF-PVL, LukMF, LukED and PSMs) were highly conserved, but can be carried on mobile genetic elements (MGEs). MGEs also encode proteins with narrow host-specificities arguing that their acquisition has important roles in host/environmental adaptation. In conclusion, this data suggests that each lineage of S. aureus evades host immune responses differently, and that isolates can adapt to new host environments by acquiring MGEs and the immune evasion protein complexes that they encode. Cocktail therapeutics that targets multiple variant proteins may be the most appropriate strategy for controlling S. aureus infections.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Host-adaptation; Immune evasion; Lineage-specific; Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); Mobile genetic element (MGE); Staphylococcus aureus

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