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Mol Microbiol. 2007 Jan;63(2):497-506. Epub 2006 Dec 14.

The human anionic antimicrobial peptide dermcidin induces proteolytic defence mechanisms in staphylococci.

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1
Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, MT, USA.

Abstract

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) represent a key component of innate host defence against bacterial pathogens. Bacterial resistance mechanisms usually depend on the characteristic positive charge of AMPs. However, several human cell types also produce anionic AMPs, mechanisms of resistance to which are poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that the skin commensal and leading nosocomial pathogen Staphylococcus epidermidis senses and efficiently inactivates the anionic AMP dermcidin. Dermcidin induced differential expression of global regulatory systems, leading to increased expression of proteases with the capacity to degrade dermcidin, particularly S. epidermidis SepA. A similar induction of extracellular proteolytic activity was found in Staphylococcus aureus, suggesting a common regulatory mechanism in staphylococci. Notably, human cationic AMPs also led to the activation of global regulators, but inactivation of dermcidin by SepA was much more effective than of the tested cationic peptides. The ability to react to the unusual, anionic dermcidin with effective countermeasures likely contributes to the extraordinary success of staphylococci as colonizers and infective agents on human epithelia. Our study indicates that staphylococci can react to human AMPs by specific mechanisms of resistance and establishes a crucial role for staphylococcal proteases in the interaction with human innate host defence.

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