Growth and stress tolerance comprise independent metabolic strategies critical for staphylococcus aureus infection

Gyu Lee Kim, Thomas A. Hooven, Javiera Norambuena, Barry Li, Jeffrey M. Boyd, Jason H. Yang, Dane Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Staphylococcus aureus is an important pathogen that leads to high morbidity and mortality. Although S. aureus produces many factors important for patho-genesis, few have been validated as playing a role in the pathogenesis of S. aureus pneumonia. To gain a better understanding of the genetic elements required for S. aureus pathogenesis in the airway, we performed an unbiased genome-wide transposon sequencing (Tn-seq) screen in a model of acute murine pneumonia. We identified 136 genes important for bacterial survival during infection, with a high proportion involved in metabolic processes. Phenotyping 80 individual deletion mutants through diverse in vitro and in vivo assays demonstrated that metabolism is linked to several processes, which include biofilm formation, growth, and resistance to host stressors. We further validated the importance of 23 mutations in pneumonia. Multivariate and principal-component analyses identified two key metabolic mechanisms enabling infection in the airway, growth (e.g., the ability to replicate and form biofilms) and resistance to host stresses. As deep valida-tion of these hypotheses, we investigated the role of pyruvate carboxylase, which was important across multiple infection models and confirmed a connection between growth and resistance to host cell killing. Pathogenesis is conventionally understood in terms of the host-pathogen interactions that enable a pathogen to neutralize a host’s immune response. We demonstrate with the important bacterial pathogen S. aureus that microbial metabolism influences key traits important for in vivo infection, independent from host immunomodulation. IMPORTANCE Staphylococcus aureus is an important bacterial pathogen that causes significant morbidity and mortality, infecting numerous bodily sites, including the respiratory tract. To identify the bacterial requirements for lung infection, we conducted a genome-wide screen in a mouse model of acute pneumonia. We discovered that metabolic genes were overrepresented in those required for lung infection. In contrast to the conventional view of pathogenesis focusing on immuno-modulation, we demonstrate through phenotyping of deletion mutants in several functional assays that replicative ability and tolerance against host defenses form two key metabolic dimensions of bacterial infection. These dimensions are independent for most pathways but are coupled in central carbon metabolism and highlight the critical role of bacterial metabolism in survival against host defenses during infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00814-21
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Metabolism
  • Pathogenesis
  • Pneumonia
  • Staphylococcus aureus


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