Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Magnus Hook

Committee Member

Burton Dickey

Committee Member

Theresa M. Koehler

Committee Member

C. Wayne Smith

Committee Member

Yi Xu


Staphylococcus aureus is an opportunistic bacterial pathogen that can infect humans and other species. It utilizes an arsenal of virulence factors to cause disease, including secreted and cell wall anchored factors. Secreted toxins attack host cells, and pore-forming toxins destroy target cells by causing cell lysis. S. aureus uses cell-surface adhesins to attach to host molecules thereby facilitating host colonization. The Microbial Surface Components Recognizing Adhesive Matrix Molecules (MSCRAMMs) are a family of cell-wall anchored proteins that target molecules like fibronectin and fibrinogen. The Serine-aspartate repeat (Sdr) proteins are a subset of staphylococcal MSCRAMMs that share similar domain organization. Interestingly, the amino-terminus, is composed of three immunoglobulin-folded subdomains (N1, N2, and N3) that contain ligand-binding activity. Clumping factors A and B (ClfA and ClfB) and SdrG are Sdr proteins that bind to fibrinogen (Fg), a large, plasma glycoprotein that is activated during the clotting cascade to form fibrin. In addition to recognizing fibrinogen, ClfA and ClfB can bind to other host ligands.

Analysis of S. aureus strains that cause osteomyelitis led to the discovery of the bone-sialoprotein-binding protein (Bbp), an Sdr protein. Because several MSCRAMMs target more than one molecule, I hypothesized that Bbp may recognize other host proteins. A ligand screen revealed that the recombinant construct BbpN2N3 specifically recognizes human Fg. Surface plasmon resonance was used to determine the affinity of BbpN2N3 for Fg, and a dissociation constant of 540 nM was determined. Binding experiments performed with recombinant Fg chains were used to map the binding of BbpN2N3 to the Fg Aalpha chain. Additionally, Bbp expressed on the surface of Lactococcus lactis and S. aureus Newman bald mediated attachment of these bacteria to Fg Aalpha. To further characterize the interaction between the two proteins, isothermal titration calorimetry and inhibition assays were conducted with synthetic Fg Aalpha peptides. To determine the physiological implications of Bbp binding to Fg, the effect of Bbp on fibrinogen clotting was studied. Results show that Bbp binding to Fg inhibits the formation of fibrin. The consequences of this interaction are currently under investigation.

Together, these data demonstrate that human Fg is a novel ligand for Bbp. This study indicates that the MSCRAMM Bbp may aid in staphylococcal attachment by targeting both an extracellular matrix and a blood plasma protein. The implications of these novel findings are discussed.


Staphylococcus aureus, adhesin, MSCRAMM, ligand, Bbp, fibrinogen, fibrin inhibition, SdrE, Panton-Valentine leukocidin, MRSA



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