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Activation of the alternative sigma factor SigB of Staphylococcus aureus following internalization by epithelial cells – An in vivo proteomics perspective

International Journal of Medical Microbiology
March 18, 2014

Staphylococcus aureus is a versatile pathogen that can be a commensal but also cause a wide range of different infections. This broad disease spectrum is a reflection of the complex regulation of a large collection of virulence factors that together with metabolic fitness allow adaptation to different niches. The alternative sigma factor SigB is one of the global regulators mediating this adaptation. However, even if SigB contributes to expression of many virulence factors its importance for successful infection greatly varies with the strain and the infection setting analyzed. We have recently established a proteomics workflow that combines high efficiency cell sorting with sensitive mass spectrometry and allows monitoring of global proteome adaptations with roughly one million bacterial cells. Thus, we can now approach the adaptation of pathogens to the intracellular milieu. In the current study this proteomics workflow was used in conjunction with qRT-PCR and confocal fluorescence microscopy to comparatively analyze the adaptation of the S. aureus wild type strain HG001 and its isogenic sigB mutant to the intracellular milieu of human S9 bronchial epithelial cells. The study revealed fast and transient activation of SigB following internalization by human host cells and the requirement of SigB for intracellular growth. Loss of SigB triggered proteome changes reflecting the different residual growth rates of wild type and sigB mutant, respectively, the resistance to methicillin, adaptation to oxidative stress and protein quality control mechanisms.