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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 1997 Jul 1;152(1):155-61.

Variation in the agr-dependent expression of alpha-toxin and protein A among clinical isolates of Staphylococcus aureus from patients with septicaemia.

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Microbiology and Tumorbiology Center, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


In Staphylococcus aureus synthesis of many virulence factors is regulated by the agr locus. The regulatory molecule RNAIII, induced by agr, activates transcription of the alpha-toxin gene, hla, while it acts as a repressor of the protein A gene, spa. Forty clinical strains of S. aureus from human blood cultures were analysed for alpha-toxin and protein A production. An inverse correlation between alpha-toxin and protein A production was found in most strains. The levels of alpha-toxin and protein A production varied significantly among strains, which indicates various levels of the regulator, RNAIII. This was confirmed by selecting strains producing different amounts of alpha-toxin, showing that the variations in toxin production are due to the variations of RNAIII transcript. However, in one of the selected strains which produced high levels of alpha-toxin, OR153, although RNAIII is also strongly expressed, the specific hla mRNA was unexpectedly low. One partial explanation for the high alpha-toxin production by this clinical isolate might be its lack of extracellular proteases.

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