Antibiotic resistance and host immune evasion in Staphylococcus aureus mediated by a metabolic adaptation

Jhih-Hang Jiang, Md Saruar Bhuiyan, Hsin-Hui Shen, David R Cameron, Thusitha W T Rupasinghe, Chun-Ming Wu, Anton P Le Brun, Xenia Kostoulias, Carmen Domene, Alex J Fulcher, Malcolm J McConville, Benjamin P Howden, Graham J Lieschke, Anton Y Peleg

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Staphylococcus aureus is a notorious human bacterial pathogen with considerable capacity to develop antibiotic resistance. We have observed that human infections caused by highly drug-resistant S. aureus are more prolonged, complicated, and difficult to eradicate. Here we describe a metabolic adaptation strategy used by clinical S. aureus strains that leads to resistance to the last-line antibiotic, daptomycin, and simultaneously affects host innate immunity. This response was characterized by a change in anionic membrane phospholipid composition induced by point mutations in the phospholipid biosynthesis gene, cls2, encoding cardiolipin synthase. Single cls2 point mutations were sufficient for daptomycin resistance, antibiotic treatment failure, and persistent infection. These phenotypes were mediated by enhanced cardiolipin biosynthesis, leading to increased bacterial membrane cardiolipin and reduced phosphatidylglycerol. The changes in membrane phospholipid profile led to modifications in membrane structure that impaired daptomycin penetration and membrane disruption. The cls2 point mutations also allowed S. aureus to evade neutrophil chemotaxis, mediated by the reduction in bacterial membrane phosphatidylglycerol, a previously undescribed bacterial-driven chemoattractant. Together, these data illustrate a metabolic strategy used by S. aureus to circumvent antibiotic and immune attack and provide crucial insights into membrane-based therapeutic targeting of this troublesome pathogen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3722-3727
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
Early online date11 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2019


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