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J Bacteriol. 2010 Jun;192(12):3068-77. doi: 10.1128/JB.00928-09. Epub 2010 Apr 16.

Golden pigment production and virulence gene expression are affected by metabolisms in Staphylococcus aureus.

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Department of Chemistry, 929 East 57th Street, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


The pathogenesis of staphylococcal infections is multifactorial. Golden pigment is an eponymous feature of the human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus that shields the microbe from oxidation-based clearance, an innate host immune response to infection. Here, we screened a collection of S. aureus transposon mutants for pigment production variants. A total of 15 previously unidentified genes were discovered. Notably, disrupting metabolic pathways such as the tricarboxylic acid cycle, purine biosynthesis, and oxidative phosphorylation yields mutants with enhanced pigmentation. The dramatic effect on pigment production seems to correlate with altered expression of virulence determinants. Microarray analysis further indicates that purine biosynthesis impacts the expression of approximately 400 genes involved in a broad spectrum of functions including virulence. The purine biosynthesis mutant and oxidative phosphorylation mutant strains exhibit significantly attenuated virulence in a murine abscess model of infection. Inhibition of purine biosynthesis with a known small-molecule inhibitor results in altered virulence gene expression and virulence attenuation during infection. Taken together, these results suggest an intimate link between metabolic processes and virulence gene expression in S. aureus. This study also establishes the importance of purine biosynthesis and oxidative phosphorylation for in vivo survival.

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