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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2012 Dec;67(12):2873-81. doi: 10.1093/jac/dks325. Epub 2012 Sep 21.

Intracellular forms of menadione-dependent small-colony variants of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus are hypersusceptible to β-lactams in a THP-1 cell model due to cooperation between vacuolar acidic pH and oxidant species.

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Pharmacologie cellulaire et moléculaire & Louvain Drug Research Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.



Phagocytosed methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are susceptible to β-lactams because of an acid-induced conformational change of penicillin-binding protein (PBP) 2a within phagolysosomes. We have examined whether this mechanism applies to menD and hemB small-colony variants (SCVs) of the COL MRSA strain, using cloxacillin, meropenem, doripenem, and vancomycin as comparator.


Intracellularly, the change in cfu from post-phagocytosis inoculum was measured after 24 h of incubation with antibiotics combined or not with N-acetylcysteine (NAC; oxidant species scavenger); the relative potency (C(s)) was calculated from the Hill equation of concentration-response curves. Extracellularly, the effect of a pre-incubation with H(2)O(2) was determined on MICs and killing at pH 7.4 and 5.5.


Intracellularly, the β-lactam C(s) was similar for the COL strain and the hemB mutant and not modified or slightly decreased (2- to 16-fold) by NAC. In contrast, the C(s) was 100- to 900-fold lower for the menD mutant, but similar to that for the COL strain when NAC was present. Extracellularly, β-lactam MICs were markedly reduced at pH 5.5 for the parental strain and the haemin-supplemented hemB mutant, with limited additional effect of pre-incubation with H(2)O(2). In contrast, MICs remained elevated at pH 5.5 for the menD mutant (supplemented with menadione sodium bisulphite or not), but were 7-10 dilutions lower after pre-incubation with H(2)O(2). Vancomycin MICs were unaltered in all conditions, with no marked effect of NAC on C(s).


Cooperation between acidic pH and oxidant species confers high potency to β-lactams against intracellular forms of menD SCVs of MRSA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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