Host-derived fatty acids activate type VII secretion in Staphylococcus aureus.

Research paper by Michael S MS Lopez, Irene S IS Tan, Donghong D Yan, Jing J Kang, Mark M McCreary, Zora Z Modrusan, Cary D CD Austin, Min M Xu, Eric J EJ Brown

Indexed on: 05 Oct '17Published on: 05 Oct '17Published in: PNAS


The type VII secretion system (T7SS) of Staphylococcus aureus is a multiprotein complex dedicated to the export of several virulence factors during host infection. This virulence pathway plays a key role in promoting bacterial survival and the long-term persistence of staphylococcal abscess communities. The expression of the T7SS is activated by bacterial interaction with host tissues including blood serum, nasal secretions, and pulmonary surfactant. In this work we identify the major stimulatory factors as host-specific cis-unsaturated fatty acids. Increased T7SS expression requires host fatty acid incorporation into bacterial biosynthetic pathways by the Saureus fatty acid kinase (FAK) complex, and FakA is required for virulence. The incorporated cis-unsaturated fatty acids decrease Saureus membrane fluidity, and these altered membrane dynamics are partially responsible for T7SS activation. These data define a molecular mechanism by which Saureus cells sense the host environment and implement appropriate virulence pathways.