Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Biology (Cell Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology)

Major Professor

Lindsey N. Shaw


2D-DIGE, CA-MRSA, Exopeptidase, Mass Spectrometry, Nutrition


Staphylococcus aureus is a remarkably successful pathogen, accounting for an estimated 95,000 invasive infections annually in the U.S. alone. The burden of MRSA infections on public healthcare continues to rise, particularly with the continued spread of antibiotic resistant strains and the hyper-virulent CA-MRSA strains. The pathogenic nature of S. aureus can be attributed to the cache of virulence factors encoded within the genome of this organism. Typically, these are secreted toxins which directly interact with the host during infection, and facilitate pathogenesis. A previous screen in our laboratory investigating proteases in S. aureus identified a mutant in aminopeptidase Z as being attenuated in disease causation. Classically aminopeptidases function in the bioactivation/inactivation of proteins; and/or the utilization of imported peptides for cellular nutrition. We therefore hypothesize that cells deficient in one of these two processes would have decreased fitness levels, resulting in reduced virulence. We therefore sought to explore the role of PepZ in S. aureus; either in the processing of exogenous oligopeptides for nutrition, or in protein bioactivation/inactivation, and protein stability. We determined that S. aureus strains deficient in PepZ are less viable when cultured under conditions of starvation or while in competition for nutrients with the parent strain, and does not appear to be peptide driven. Using protein analysis approaches we have identified PepZ externalization, suggesting a potential for the aminopeptidase beyond the confines of the cell membrane. Additionally, we have also identified a potential role for PepZ in protein stability in this organism. Lastly, we present the essential role for PepZ in S. aureus virulence.