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2022 - The Staphylococcus aureus CidA and LrgA Proteins Are Functional Holins Involved in the Transport of By-Products of Carbohydrate Metabolism

icon vpp Vesicle Prep Pro Publication in mBio (2022)

Endres J. L., Chaudhari S. S., Zhang X., Prahlad J., Wang S-Q., Foley L. A., Luca S., Bose J. L., Thomas V. C., Bayles K. W.

mBio (2022) doi: 10.1128/mbio.02827-21


The Staphylococcus aureus cidABC and lrgAB operons encode members of a well-conserved family of proteins thought to be involved in programmed cell death (PCD). Based on the structural similarities that CidA and LrgA share with bacteriophage holins, we have hypothesized that these proteins function by forming pores within the cytoplasmic membrane. To test this, we utilized a "lysis cassette" system that demonstrated the abilities of the cidA and lrgA genes to support bacteriophage endolysin-induced cell lysis. Typical of holins, CidA- and LrgA-induced lysis was dependent on the coexpression of endolysin, consistent with the proposed holin-like functions of these proteins. In addition, the CidA and LrgA proteins were shown to localize to the surface of membrane vesicles and cause leakage of small molecules, providing direct evidence of their hole-forming potential. Consistent with recent reports demonstrating a role for the lrgAB homologues in other bacterial and plant species in the transport of by-products of carbohydrate metabolism, we also show that lrgAB is important for S. aureus to utilize pyruvate during microaerobic and anaerobic growth, by promoting the uptake of pyruvate under these conditions. Combined, these data reveal that the CidA and LrgA membrane proteins possess holin-like properties that play an important role in the transport of small by-products of carbohydrate metabolism. IMPORTANCE The Staphylococcus aureus cidABC and lrgAB operons represent the founding members of a large, highly conserved family of genes that span multiple kingdoms of life. Despite the fact that they have been shown to be involved in bacterial PCD, very little is known about the molecular/biochemical functions of the proteins they encode. The results presented in this study reveal that the cidA and lrgA genes encode proteins with bacteriophage holin-like functions, consistent with their roles in cell death. However, these studies also demonstrate that these operons are involved in the transport of small metabolic by-products of carbohydrate metabolism, suggesting an intriguing link between these two seemingly disparate processes.

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