Identification of a staphylococcal complement inhibitor with broad host specificity in equid Staphylococcus aureus strains

Nienke W.M. De Jong, Manouk Vrieling, Brandon L. Garcia, Gerrit Koop, Matt Brettmann, Piet C. Aerts, Maartje Ruyken, Jos A.G. Van Strijp, Mark Holmes, Ewan M. Harrison, Brian V. Geisbrecht, Suzan H.M. Rooijakkers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Staphylococcus aureus is a versatile pathogen capable of causing a broad range of diseases in many different hosts. S. aureus can adapt to its host through modification of its genome (e.g. by acquisition and exchange of mobile genetic elements that encode host-specific virulence factors). Recently, the prophage φSaeq1 was discovered in S. aureus strains from six different clonal lineages almost exclusively isolated from equids. Within this phage, we discovered a novel variant of staphylococcal complement inhibitor (SCIN), a secreted protein that interferes with activation of the human complement system, an important line of host defense. We here show that this equine variant of SCIN, eqSCIN, is a potent blocker of equine complement system activation and subsequent phagocytosis of bacteria by phagocytes. Mechanistic studies indicate that eqSCIN blocks equine complement activation by specific inhibition of the C3 convertase enzyme (C3bBb). Whereas SCIN-A from human S. aureus isolates exclusively inhibits human complement, eqSCIN represents the first animal-adapted SCIN variant that functions in a broader range of hosts (horses, humans, and pigs). Binding analyses suggest that the human-specific activity of SCIN-A is related to amino acid differences on both sides of the SCIN-C3b interface. These data suggest that modification of this phageencoded complement inhibitor plays a role in the host adaptation of S. aureus and are important to understand how this pathogen transfers between different hosts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4468-4477
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of a staphylococcal complement inhibitor with broad host specificity in equid Staphylococcus aureus strains'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this