Thomas E Kehl-Fie, Patrick H Degnan, Kyle P Grim, Jana N Radin, Jessica L Kelliher, Paola K Párraga Solórzano
During infection, pathogens must obtain all inorganic nutrients, such as phosphate, from the host. Despite the essentiality of phosphate for all forms of life, how Staphylococcus aureus obtains this nutrient during infection is unknown. Differing from Escherichia coli, the paradigm for bacterial phosphate acquisition, which has two inorganic phosphate (P i ) importers, genomic analysis suggested that S. aureus possesses three distinct P i transporters: PstSCAB, PitA, and NptA. While pitA and nptA are expressed in phosphate-replete media, expression of all three transporters is induced by phosphate limitation. The loss of a single transporter did not affect S. aureus However, disruption of any two systems significantly reduced P i accumulation and growth in divergent environments. These findings indicate that PstSCAB, PitA, and NptA have overlapping but non-redundant functions, thus expanding the environments in which S. aureus can successfully obtain P i Consistent with this idea, in a systemic mouse model of disease, loss of any one transporter did not decrease staphylococcal virulence. However, loss of NptA in conjunction with either PstSCAB or PitA significantly reduced the ability of S. aureus to cause infection. These observations suggest that P i acquisition via NptA is particularly important for the pathogenesis of S. aureus While our analysis suggests that NptA homologs are widely distributed among bacteria, closely related less pathogenic staphylococcal species do not possess this importer. Altogether, these observations indicate that P i uptake by S. aureus differs from established models and that acquisition of a third transporter enhances the ability of the bacterium to cause infection.