Epidemiological studies of Staphylococcus aureus have shown a relation between certain clones and the presence of specific virulence genes, but how this translates into virulence-associated functional responses is not fully elucidated. Here we addressed this issue by analyses of community-acquired S. aureus strains characterized with respect to antibiotic resistance, ST types, agr types, and virulence gene profiles. Supernatants containing exotoxins were prepared from overnight bacterial cultures, and tested in proliferation assays using human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). The strains displayed stable phenotypic response profiles, defined by either a proliferative or cytotoxic response. Although, virtually all strains elicited superantigen-mediated proliferative responses, the strains with a cytotoxic profile induced proliferation only in cultures with the most diluted supernatants. This indicated that the superantigen-response was masked by a cytotoxic effect which was also confirmed by flow cytometry analysis. The cytotoxic supernatants contained significantly higher levels of α-toxin than did the proliferative supernatants. Addition of α-toxin to supernatants characterized as proliferative switched the response into cytotoxic profiles. In contrast, no effect of Panton Valentine Leukocidin, δ-toxin or phenol soluble modulin α-3 was noted in the proliferative assay. Furthermore, a significant association between agr type and phenotypic profile was found, where agrII and agrIII strains had predominantly a proliferative profile whereas agrI and IV strains had a predominantly cytotoxic profile. The differential response profiles associated with specific S. aureus strains with varying toxin production could possibly have an impact on disease manifestations, and as such may reflect specific pathotypes.

dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106107, hdl.handle.net/1765/88012
This work was funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme; grant id fp7/305340 - Improving Outcome of Necrotizing Fasciitis: Elucidation of Complex Host and Pathogen Signatures that Dictate Severity of Tissue Infection (INFECT)
Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

Shambat, S.M, Haggar, A, Vandenesch, F, Lina, G, van Wamel, W.J.B, Arakere, G, … Norrby-Teglund, A. (2014). Levels of alpha-toxin correlate with distinct phenotypic response profiles of blood mononuclear cells and with agr background of community-associated Staphylococcus aureus isolates. PLoS ONE, 9(8). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106107