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FASEB J. 2011 Apr;25(4):1254-63. doi: 10.1096/fj.10-175208. Epub 2010 Dec 23.

Neutrophil responses to staphylococcal pathogens and commensals via the formyl peptide receptor 2 relates to phenol-soluble modulin release and virulence.

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Cellular and Molecular Microbiology Division, Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.


The mechanisms used by the immune system to discriminate between pathogenic and commensal bacteria have remained largely unclear. Recently, we have shown that virulence of Staphylococcus aureus depends on secretion of phenol-soluble modulin (PSM) peptides that disrupt neutrophils at micromolar concentrations. Moreover, all S. aureus PSMs stimulate and attract neutrophils at nanomolar concentrations via interaction with the formyl-peptide receptor 2 (FPR2). Here, we demonstrate that FPR2 allows neutrophils to adjust their responses in relation to the aggressiveness of staphylococcal species, which differ largely in their capacity to infect or colonize humans and animals. PSM-related peptides were detected in all human and animal pathogenic staphylococci, but were absent from most commensal species. Three PSMβ-like peptides produced by the serious human pathogen Staphylococcus lugdunensis were identified as the previously described S. lugdunensis-synergistic hemolysins (SLUSHs). SLUSHs attracted and stimulated human leukocytes in a FPR2-dependent manner, indicating that FPR2 is a general receptor for all PSM-like peptide toxins. Remarkably, the release of PSMs correlated closely with the apparent capacity of staphylococcal species to cause invasive infections and with their ability to activate FPR2. These findings suggest that the innate immune system may be able to respond in different ways to pathogenic or innocuous staphylococci by monitoring the presence of PSMs via FPR2.

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