Identification and characterization of msa (SA1233), a gene involved in expression of SarA and several virulence factors in Staphylococcus aureus

Karthik Sambanthamoorthy
Mark S. Smeltzer
Mohamed O. Elasri, University of Southern Mississippi


The staphylococcal accessory regulator (sarA) plays a central role in the regulation of virulence in Staphylococcus aureus. To date, studies involving sarA have focused on its activity as a global regulator that modulates transcription of a wide variety of genes (> 100) and its role in virulence. However, there is also evidence to suggest the existence of accessory elements that modulate SarA production and/or function. A reporter system was developed to identify such elements, and a new gene, msa (SA1233), mutation of which results in reduced expression of SarA, was identified and characterized. Additionally, it was shown that mutation of msa resulted in altered transcription of the accessory gene regulator (agr) and the genes encoding several virulence factors including alpha toxin (h/a) and protein A (spa). However, the impact of mutating msa was different in the laboratory strain RN6390 and the clinical isolate UAMS-1. For instance, mutation of msa caused a decrease in spa and h/a transcription in RN6390 but had a different effect in UAMS-1. The strain-dependent effects of the msa mutation were similar to those observed previously, which suggests that msa may modulate the production of specific virulence factors through its impact on sarA. Interestingly, sequence analysis of Msa suggests that it is a putative membrane protein with three membrane-spanning regions, indicating that Msa might interact with the environment. The findings show that msa is involved in the expression of SarA and several virulence factors.