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Microbiology. 2004 Jun;150(Pt 6):2005-2013. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.26942-0.

The hyaluronate lyase of Staphylococcus aureus - a virulence factor?

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School of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


The hyaluronate lyase (HL) gene of Staphylococcus aureus 8325-4 (hysA) was inactivated in vitro with the insertion of the erythromycin determinant, ermC, from plasmid pE194. The hysA : : ermC mutation was introduced into S. aureus via a temperature-sensitive shuttle vector, where it underwent homologous recombination with the wild-type (w.t.) allele. The insertion of ermC in the chromosomal hysA locus was confirmed by Southern blot hybridization and the loss of HL activity was demonstrated macroscopically by a plate assay. The importance of HL for pathogenicity was assessed by comparing the virulence of the HL(-) mutant strain to that of the w.t. in an established mouse abscess model of S. aureus infection. A significantly higher cell recovery was obtained from lesions infected with the w.t. strain compared to the lesions infected with the HL(-) strain (P =0.01). Although the lesion areas from both groups were not significantly different (P=0.9) they were of different morphology. A colorimetric assay was used to measure HL activity from culture supernatants of the S. aureus 8325-4 strains w.t., WA250 (agr) and PC1839 (sar) grown in a chemically defined medium. HL activity reached a maximum in the w.t. strain during mid-exponential phase (t=5 h) and while it showed a 16-fold decrease in the agr mutant it increased 35-fold in the sar mutant background. These results strongly suggest that HL is a virulence factor which is important in the early stages of subcutaneous infections.

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