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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2010 Jul;308(2):175-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2010.02012.x. Epub 2010 May 14.

Staphylococcal superantigen-like genes, ssl5 and ssl8, are positively regulated by Sae and negatively by Agr in the Newman strain.

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Molecular Microbiology Laboratory, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Marshfield, WI 54449, USA.


Some of the staphylococcal superantigen-like (SSL) proteins SSL5, SSL7, SSL9, and SSL11 act as immunomodulatory proteins in Staphylococcus aureus. However, little is known about their regulatory mechanisms. We determined the expression levels of ssl5 and ssl8 in seven clinically important S. aureus strains and their regulatory mechanisms in the Newman strain, which had the highest ssl5 and ssl8 expression. Independent comparisons of ssl5 or ssl8 coding and upstream sequences in these strains identified multiple haplotypes that did not correlate with the differential expression of ssl5 and ssl8, suggesting the role of additional regulatory elements. Using knockout mutant strains of known S. aureus global regulators such as Agr, Sae, and SigB in the Newman strain, we showed that both ssl5 and ssl8 were induced by Sae and repressed by Agr, suggesting that Sae and Agr are the positive and the negative regulators, respectively, of these two ssl genes. Moreover, we observed upregulation of sae in the agr mutant and upregulation of agr in the sae mutant compared with the isogenic Newman strain, suggesting that the Agr and Sae may be inhibiting each other. The SigB mutation did not affect ssl5 and ssl8 expression, but they were downregulated in the agr/sigB double mutant, indicating that SigB probably acts synergistically with Agr in their upregulation.

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