Subgenomic DNA microarrays were employed to evaluate the expression of the accessory gene regulator (agr locus) as well as multiple virulence-associated genes in Staphylococcus aureus. Gene expression was examined during growth of S. aureus in vitro in standard laboratory medium and rabbit serum and in vivo in subcutaneous chambers implanted in either nonimmune rabbits or rabbits immunized with staphylococcal enterotoxin B. Expression of RNAIII, the effector molecule of the agr locus, was dramatically repressed in serum and in vivo, despite the increased expression of secreted virulence factors sufficient to cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS) in the animals. Statistical analysis and clustering of virulence genes based on their expression profiles in the various experimental conditions demonstrated no positive correlation between the expression of agr and any staphylococcal virulence factors examined. Disruption of the agr locus had only a minimal effect on the expression in vivo of the virulence factors examined. An effect of immunization on the expression of agr and virulence factors was also observed. These results suggest that agr activation is not necessary for development of staphylococcal TSS and that regulatory circuits responding to the in vivo environment override agr activity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology