VfrB Is a Key Activator of the Staphylococcus aureus SaeRS Two-Component System
In previous studies, we identified the fatty acid kinase virulence factor regulator B (VfrB) as a potent regulator of α-hemolysin and other virulence factors in Staphylococcus aureus . In this study, we demonstrated that VfrB is a positive activator of the SaeRS two-component regulatory system. Analysis of vfrB , saeR , and saeS mutant strains revealed that VfrB functions in the same pathway as SaeRS. At the transcriptional level, the promoter activities of SaeRS class I ( coa ) and class II ( hla ) target genes were downregulated during the exponential growth phase in the vfrB mutant, compared to the wild-type strain. In addition, saePQRS expression was decreased in the vfrB mutant strain, demonstrating a need for this protein in the autoregulation of SaeRS. The requirement for VfrB-mediated activation was circumvented when SaeS was constitutively active due to an SaeS (L18P) substitution. Furthermore, activation of SaeS via human neutrophil peptide 1 (HNP-1) overcame the dependence on VfrB for transcription from class I Sae promoters. Consistent with the role of VfrB in fatty acid metabolism, hla expression was decreased in the vfrB mutant with the addition of exogenous myristic acid. Lastly, we determined that aspartic acid residues D38 and D40, which are predicted to be key to VfrB enzymatic activity, were required for VfrB-mediated α-hemolysin production. Collectively, this study implicates VfrB as a novel accessory protein needed for the activation of SaeRS in S. aureus . IMPORTANCE The SaeRS two-component system is a key regulator of virulence determinant production in Staphylococcus aureus . Although the regulon of this two-component system is well characterized, the activation mechanisms, including the specific signaling molecules, remain elusive. Elucidating the complex regulatory circuit of SaeRS regulation is important for understanding how the system contributes to disease causation by this pathogen. To this end, we have identified the fatty acid kinase VfrB as a positive regulatory modulator of SaeRS-mediated transcription of virulence factors in S. aureus . In addition to describing a new regulatory aspect of SaeRS, this study establishes a link between fatty acid kinase activity and virulence factor regulation.
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