Fibrinogen Depletion Attenuates Staphyloccocus aureus Infection by Preventing Density-Dependent Virulence Gene Up-Regulation

Jacob M. Rothfork, Sophie Dessus-Babus, Willem J.B. Van Wamel, Ambrose L. Cheung, Hattie D. Gresham*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Staphylococcus aureus undergoes a density-dependent conversion in phenotype from tissue-adhering to tissue-damaging and phagocyte-evading that is mediated in part by the quorum-sensing operon, agr, and its effector, RNAIII. Contributions of host factors to this mechanism for regulating virulence have not been studied. We hypothesized that fibrinogen, as a component of the inflammatory response, could create spatially constrained microenvironments around bacteria that increase density independently of bacterial numbers and thus potentiate quorum-sensing-dependent virulence gene expression. Here we show that transient fibrinogen depletion significantly reduces the bacterial burden and the consequential morbidity and mortality during experimental infection with wild-type S. aureus, but not with bacteria that lack expression of the quorum-sensing operon, agr. In addition, it inhibits in vivo activation of the promoter for the agr effector, RNAIII, and downstream targets of RNAIII, including α hemolysin and capsule production. Moreover, both in vitro and in vivo, the mechanism for promoting this phenotypic switch in virulence involves clumping of the bacteria, demonstrating that S. aureus responds to fibrinogen-mediated bacterial clumping by enhancing density-dependent virulence gene expression. These data demonstrate that down-modulation of specific inflammatory components of the host that augment bacterial quorum sensing can be a strategy for enhancing host defense against infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5389-5395
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


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