Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Public Health (M.S.P.H.)

Degree Granting Department

Global Health

Major Professor

Lindsey N. Shaw, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas R. Unnasch, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John H. Adams, Ph.D.


Pathogenesis, Blood Survival, Mass Spectrometry, Macrophage Infection, Site-Directed Mutagenesis, agr Quorum Sensing


A major factor in the success of Staphylococcus aureus as a pathogen is its vast arsenal of virulence determinants and, more importantly, the tight and precisely- timed regulation of these factors. Here we investigate the product of the S. aureus gene, SAUSA300_1984, encoding a putative transmembrane protein. This as yet uncharacterized protein belongs to the Abi (abortive infection) family, which are commonly annotated as CAAX-proteases, and are significantly understudied in prokaryotes. In S. aureus the disruption of SAUSA300_1984 results in a drastic reduction of proteolytic and hemolytic activity, as well as diminished pigmentation. This phenotype appears to be mediated through reduced agr expression, as determined by qPCR analysis. Importantly, known regulators of agr, such as CodY, MgrA, and ArlR, demonstrate no significant changes in transcription upon 1984 disruption, whilst major alterations were observed for downstream effectors of agr, such as sarS, RNAIII, rot and hla. Complementation and site-directed mutagenesis of 1984 demonstrated that proteolytic activity (via conserved EE residues) was not required for this phenotype, suggesting a potential protein-protein interaction mechanism of interaction. Proteome analysis of the 1984 mutant confirmed a number of our transcriptional observations, such as an increased abundance of Rot and surface associated proteins, as well as a marked decrease in Agr-system proteins levels, with the most striking being AgrB. Virulence profiling revealed a decreased ability of the 1984 mutant to evade constituents of the innate immune response, and impaired survival during murine models of infection. Given that SAUSA300_1984 is encoded 3 genes downstream of RNAIII, our current working hypothesis is that this Abi protein functions to control agr activity through communication with membrane components of this system, potentially via interaction with AgrB. Confirming this, and determining the upstream effectors of this regulatory system are studies currently ongoing in our laboratory.