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FEBS Lett. 1999 May 7;450(3):257-62.

Inhibition of virulence factor expression in Staphylococcus aureus by the Staphylococcus epidermidis agr pheromone and derivatives.

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Mikrobielle Genetik, Universität Tübingen, Germany.


The agr quorum-sensing system in Staphylococci controls the production of surface proteins and exoproteins. In the pathogenic species Staphylococcus aureus, these proteins include many virulence factors. The extracellular signal of the quorum-sensing system is a thiolactone-containing peptide pheromone, whose sequence varies among the different staphylococcal strains. We demonstrate that a synthetic Staphylococcus epidermidis pheromone is a competent inhibitor of the Staphylococcus aureus agr system. Derivatives of the pheromone, in which the N-terminus or the cyclic bond structure was changed, were synthesized and their biological activity was determined. The presence of a correct N-terminus and a thiolactone were absolute prerequisites for an agr-activating effect in S. epidermidis, whereas inhibition of the S. aureus agr system was less dependent on the original structure. Our results show that effective quorum-sensing blockers that suppress the expression of virulence factors in S. aureus can be designed based on the S. epidermidis pheromone.

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