Structure and function predictions of the Msa protein in Staphylococcus aureus

Vijayaraj Nagarajan, University of Southern Mississippi
Mohamed O. Elasri, University of Southern Mississippi


Background: Staphylococcus aureus is a human pathogen that causes a wide variety of life-threatening infections using a large number of virulence factors. One of the major global regulators used by S. aureus is the staphylococcal accessory regulator (sarA). We have identified and characterized a new gene (modulator of sarA: msa) that modulates the expression of sarA. Genetic and functional analysis shows that msa has a global effect on gene expression in S. aureus. However, the mechanism of Msa function is still unknown. Function predictions of Msa are complicated by the fact that it does not have a homologous partner in any other organism. This work aims at predicting the structure and function of the Msa protein. Results: Preliminary sequence analysis showed that Msa is a putative membrane protein. It would therefore be very difficult to purify and crystallize Msa in order to acquire structure information about this protein. We have used several computational tools to predict the physico-chemical properties, secondary structural features, topology, 3D tertiary structure, binding sites, motifs/patterns/domains and cellular location. We have built a consensus that is derived from analysis using different algorithms to predict several structural features. We confirm that Msa is a putative membrane protein with three transmembrane regions. We also predict that Msa has phosphorylation sites and binding sites suggesting functions in signal transduction. Conclusion: Based on our predictions we hypothesise that Msa is a novel signal transducer that might be involved in the interaction of the S. aureus with its environment.