Host-Parasite Interactions in Staphylococcus aureus Keratitis
AbstractUlcerative keratitis is among the leading ocular bacterial infections, and Streptococcus aureus accounts for approximately 25% of cases in some surveys. Although S. aureus expresses numerous virulence factors, many of which are under the control of staphylococcal global regulatory genes, their pathophysiologic roles in keratitis are largely unknown. Similarly, the nature of the host response during S. aureus keratitis is unclear. Following a review of previously published research on the pathophysiology of S. aureus ocular infection, we present the results of a study designed to assess the host-parasite relationship between S. aureus and human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs) in vitro . In this model system, a wild-type S. aureus strain and its isogenic mutants harboring mutations in agr and sar global regulatory genes or fibronectin-binding proteins A and B ( fnb AB) were tested for their ability to bind and invade confluent HCEC monolayers. The contribution of host cell factors was assessed by preincubating HCECs with various inhibitory agents. These studies demonstrated that S. aureus not only adhered to the surface of HCECs but was also internalized, as has been previously observed in other nonocular cell lines. Adherence and invasion of HCECs was saturable at 1 h of incubation in the presence of approximately 10 7 CFU per HCEC monolayer (multiplicity of infection ~ 10). A mutant defective in both agr and sar global regulators was not significantly different in invasive capacity compared to its isogenic wild-type parent strain. In contrast, mutations in fibronectin-binding proteins A and B ( fnb AB) reduced the invasiveness of S. aureus by 99% compared to the wild-type strain. Pretreatment of HCECs with colchicine had little effect on S. aureus invasion. In sharp contrast, cytochalasin D and genistein were each capable of inhibiting invasion by >99%. In summary, the results of this study point to fibronectin-binding protein as a key S. aureus surface adhesin facilitating invasion of HCECs in vitro . Furthermore, these results suggest an active mechanism for S. aureus internalization by HCECs, likely involving actin polymerization and tyrosine kinase activity. Additional studies are warranted to determine the applicability of these findings in vivo , and to facilitate the rational design of therapeutic agents aimed at blocking the establishment and progression of S. aureus keratitis.