Staphylococcal dna repair is required for infection

Kam Pou Ha, Rebecca S. Clarke, Gyu Lee Kim, Jane L. Brittan, Jessica E. Rowley, Despoina A.I. Mavridou, Dane Parker, Thomas B. Clarke, Angela H. Nobbs, Andrew M. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


To cause infection, Staphylococcus aureus must withstand damage caused by host immune defenses. However, the mechanisms by which staphylococ-cal DNA is damaged and repaired during infection are poorly understood. Using a panel of transposon mutants, we identified the rexBA operon as being important for the survival of Staphylococcus aureus in whole human blood. Mutants lacking rexB were also attenuated for virulence in murine models of both systemic and skin in-fections. We then demonstrated that RexAB is a member of the AddAB family of he-licase/nuclease complexes responsible for initiating the repair of DNA double-strand breaks. Using a fluorescent reporter system, we were able to show that neutrophils cause staphylococcal DNA double-strand breaks through reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by the respiratory burst, which are repaired by RexAB, leading to the induction of the mutagenic SOS response. We found that RexAB homologues in Enterococcus faecalis and Streptococcus gordonii also promoted the survival of these pathogens in human blood, suggesting that DNA double-strand break repair is required for Gram-positive bacteria to survive in host tissues. Together, these data demonstrate that DNA is a target of host immune cells, leading to double-strand breaks, and that the repair of this damage by an AddAB-family enzyme enables the survival of Gram-positive pathogens during infection. IMPORTANCE To cause infection, bacteria must survive attack by the host immune system. For many bacteria, including the major human pathogen Staphylococcus au-reus, the greatest threat is posed by neutrophils. These immune cells ingest the in-vading organisms and try to kill them with a cocktail of chemicals that includes reactive oxygen species (ROS). The ability of S. aureus to survive this attack is crucial for the progression of infection. However, it was not clear how the ROS damaged S. aureus and how the bacterium repaired this damage. In this work, we show that ROS cause breaks in the staphylococcal DNA, which must be repaired by a two-protein complex known as RexAB; otherwise, the bacterium is killed, and it cannot sustain infection. This provides information on the type of damage that neutrophils cause S. aureus and the mechanism by which this damage is repaired, enabling in-fection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02288-20
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


  • DNA damage
  • Enterococcus
  • Neutrophils
  • Oxidative burst
  • Respiratory burst
  • SOS system
  • Staphylococcus
  • Streptococcus


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