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Pore-forming virulence factors of Staphylococcus aureus destabilize epithelial barriers-effects of alpha-toxin in the early phases of airway infection

Animal Physiology and Biochemistry, Ernst Moritz Arndt-University Greifswald, Felix

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a human commensal and an opportunistic pathogen that may affect the gastrointestinal tract, the heart, bones, skin or the respiratory tract. S. aureus is frequently involved in hospital- or community-acquired lung infections. The pathogenic potential is associated with its ability to secrete highly effective virulence factors. Among these, the pore-forming toxins Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) and hemolysin A (Hla) are the important virulence factors determining the prognosis of pneumonia cases. This review focuses on the structure and the functions of S. aureus hemolysin A and its sub-lethal effects on airway epithelial cells. The hypothesis is developed that Hla may not just be a tissue-destructive agent providing the bacteria with host-derived nutrients, but may also play complex roles in the very early stages of interactions of bacteria with healthy airways, possibly paving the way for establishing acute infections.
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