Inactivation of the exogenous fatty acid utilization pathway leads to increased resistance to unsaturated fatty acids in Staphylococcus aureus.

Research paper by Christina N CN Krute, Miranda J MJ Ridder, Nichole A NA Seawell, Jeffrey L JL Bose

Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: Microbiology (Reading, England)


The human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus produces saturated fatty acids, but can incorporate both exogenous saturated and unsaturated fatty acids into its lipid membrane. S. aureus encounters unsaturated fatty acids in the host skin where they serve as an innate immune defence due to their toxicity. Previously, we identified a fatty acid kinase in S. aureus that is necessary for the utilization of exogenous fatty acids. The goal of this study was to determine the effects of fatty acids on mutants deficient in the exogenous fatty acid utilization machinery. We have demonstrated that mutants lacking a functional fatty acid kinase (fakA) or both fatty acid carrier proteins (fakB1 fakB2) are more resistant to unsaturated fatty acids. Previous studies suggested a role for ammonia-producing enzymes in resistance to unsaturated fatty acids, but these enzymes do not contribute to the resistance of the fakA mutant, despite increased urease transcription and protein activity in the mutant. Additionally, while pigment is altered in mutants unable to use exogenous fatty acids, staphyloxanthin does not contribute to fatty acid resistance of an fakA mutant. Because exposure to unsaturated fatty acids probably initiates a stress response, we investigated the role of the alternative sigma factor σ and determined if it is necessary for the fatty acid resistance observed in the fakA mutant. Collectively, this study demonstrates that the inability to incorporate unsaturated fatty acids leads to increased resistance to those fatty acids, and that resistance requires a σ stress response.