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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54661. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054661. Epub 2013 Jan 31.

Staphylococcus aureus α-toxin-dependent induction of host cell death by membrane-derived vesicles.

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  • 1Oral Microbiology, Department of Odontology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.

Abstract

Staphylococcus aureus causes a wide spectrum of infections in humans, ranging from superficial cutaneous infections, infections in the circum-oral region, to life-threatening bacteremia. It was recently demonstrated that Gram-positive organisms such as S. aureus liberate membrane-derived vesicles (MVs), which analogously to outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) of Gram-negative bacteria can play a role in delivering virulence factors to host cells. In the present study we have shown that cholesterol-dependent fusion of S. aureus MVs with the plasma membrane represents a route for delivery of a key virulence factor, α-toxin (α-hemolysin; Hla) to human cells. Most S. aureus strains produce this 33-kDa pore-forming protein, which can lyse a wide range of human cells, and induce apoptosis in T-lymphocytes. Our results revealed a tight association of biologically active α-toxin with membrane-derived vesicles isolated from S. aureus strain 8325-4. Concomitantly, α-toxin contributed to HeLa cell cytotoxicity of MVs, and was the main vesicle-associated protein responsible for erythrocyte lysis. In contrast, MVs obtained from an isogenic hla mutant were significantly attenuated with regards to both causing lysis of erythrocytes and death of HeLa cells. This is to our knowledge the first recognition of an S. aureus MV-associated factor contributing to host cell cytotoxicity.

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