Aims:Staphylococcus aureus is a major human pathogen and has to cope with reactive oxygen and chlorine species (ROS, RCS) during infections, which requires efficient protection mechanisms to avoid destruction. Here, we have investigated the changes in the RNA-seq transcriptome by the strong oxidant sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) in S. aureus USA300 to identify novel redox-sensing mechanisms that provide protection under infection conditions.
Results: NaOCl stress caused an oxidative stress response in S. aureus as indicated by the induction of the PerR, QsrR, HrcA, and SigmaB regulons in the RNA-seq transcriptome. The hypR-merA (USA300HOU_0588-87) operon was most strongly upregulated under NaOCl stress, which encodes for the Rrf2-family regulator HypR and the pyridine nucleotide disulfide reductase MerA. We have characterized HypR as a novel redox-sensitive repressor that controls MerA expression and directly senses and responds to NaOCl and diamide stress via a thiol-based mechanism in S. aureus. Mutational analysis identified Cys33 and the conserved Cys99 as essential for NaOCl sensing, while Cys99 is also important for repressor activity of HypR in vivo. The redox-sensing mechanism of HypR involves Cys33-Cys99 intersubunit disulfide formation by NaOCl stress both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, the HypR-controlled flavin disulfide reductase MerA was shown to protect S. aureus against NaOCl stress and increased survival in J774A.1 macrophage infection assays.
Conclusion and Innovation: Here, we identified a new member of the widespread Rrf2 family as redox sensor of NaOCl stress in S. aureus that uses a thiol/disulfide switch to regulate defense mechanisms against the oxidative burst under infections in S. aureus. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 29, 615–636.