Staphylococcus aureus subverts host defences by producing a collection of virulence factors including bi-component pore-forming leukotoxins.
Despite extensive sequence conservation, each leukotoxin has unique properties, including disparate cellular receptors and species specificities. How these toxins collectively influence S. aureus pathogenesis is unknown.
Researchers demonstrate in the journal Nature Communications that the leukotoxins LukSF-PV and LukED antagonize each other’s cytolytic activities on leukocytes and erythrocytes by forming inactive hybrid complexes.
Remarkably, LukSF-PV inhibition of LukED haemolytic activity on both human and murine erythrocytes prevents the release of nutrients required for in vitro bacterial growth.
Using in vivo murine models of infection, authors show that LukSF-PV negatively influences S. aureus virulence and colonization by inhibiting LukED.
Thus, while S. aureus leukotoxins can certainly injure immune cells, the discovery of leukotoxin antagonism suggests that they may also play a role in reducing S. aureus virulence and maintaining infection without killing the host.