Invasive Staphylococcus aureus infection frequently involves bacterial seeding from the bloodstream to other body tissues, a process necessarily involving interactions between circulating bacteria and vascular endothelial cells. Staphylococcus aureus fibronectin-binding protein is central to the invasion of endothelium, fibronectin forming a bridge between bacterial fibronectin-binding proteins and host cell receptors. To dissect further the mechanisms of invasion of endothelial cells by S. aureus, a series of truncated FnBPA proteins that lacked one or more of the A, B, C or D regions were expressed on the surface of S. aureus and tested in fibronectin adhesion, endothelial cell adhesion and invasion assays. We found that this protein has multiple, substituting, fibronectin-binding regions, each capable of conferring both adherence to fibronectin and endothelial cells, and endothelial cell invasion. By expressing S. aureus FnBPA on the surface of the non-invasive Gram-positive organism Lactococcus lactis, we have found that no other bacterial factor is required for invasion. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that, as with other cell types, invasion of endothelial cells is mediated by integrin α5β1. These findings may be of relevance to the development of preventive measures against systemic infection, and bacterial spread in the bacteraemic patient.
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