Role of the msaABCR Operon in Cell Wall Biosynthesis, Autolysis, Integrity, and Antibiotic Resistance in Staphylococcus aureus

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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen in both community and health care settings. One of the challenges with S. aureus as a pathogen is its acquisition of antibiotic resistance. Previously, we have shown that deletion of the msaABCR operon reduces cell wall thickness, resulting in decreased resistance to vancomycin in vancomycin-intermediate susceptible S. aureus (VISA). In this study, we investigated the nature of the cell wall defect in the msaABCR operon mutant in the Mu50 (VISA) and USA300 LAC methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains. Results showed that msaABCR-mutant cells had decreased crosslinking in both strains. This defect is typically due to increased murein hydrolase activity and/or nonspecific processing of murein hydrolases mediated by increased protease activity in mutant cells. The defect was enhanced by a decrease in teichoic acid content in the msaABCR mutant. Therefore, we propose that deletion of the msaABCR operon results in decreased peptidoglycan crosslinking, leading to increased susceptibility towards cell wall-targeting antibiotics, such as β-lactams and vancomycin. Moreover, we also observed significantly downregulated transcription of early cell wall-synthesizing genes, supporting the finding that msaABCR-mutant cells have decreased peptidoglycan synthesis. More specifically, the msaABCR mutant in the USA300 LAC strain (MRSA) showed significantly reduced expression of the murA gene, whereas the msaABCR mutant in the Mu50 strain (VISA) showed significantly reduced expression of glmU, murA, and murD. Thus, we conclude that the msaABCR operon controls the balance between cell wall synthesis and cell wall hydrolysis, which is required for maintaining a robust cell wall and acquiring resistance to cell wall-targeting antibiotics, such as vancomycin and the β-lactams.

Publication Title

Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy





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