Adaptive upregulation of clumping factor A (ClfA) by Staphylococcus aureus in the obese, type 2 diabetic host mediates increased virulence

Christopher W. Farnsworth, Eric M. Schott, Sarah E. Jensen, Jacob Zukoski, Abigail M. Benvie, Majed A. Refaai, Stephen L. Kates, Edward M. Schwarz, Michael J. Zuscik, Steven R. Gill, Robert A. Mooney

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31 Scopus citations


Obesity and associated type 2 diabetes (T2D) are important risk factors for infection following orthopedic implant surgery. Staphylococcus aureus, the most common pathogen in bone infections, adapts to multiple environments to survive and evade host immune responses. Whether adaptation of S. aureus to the unique environment of the obese/T2D host accounts for its increased virulence and persistence in this population is unknown. Thus, we assessed implant-associated osteomyelitis in normal versus high-fat-diet obese/T2D mice and found that S. aureus infection was more severe, including increases in bone abscesses relative to nondiabetic controls. S. aureus isolated from bone of obese/T2D mice displayed marked upregulation of four adhesion genes (clfA, clfB, bbp, and sdrC), all with binding affinity for fibrin(ogen). Immunostaining of infected bone revealed increased fibrin deposition surrounding bacterial abscesses in obese/T2D mice. In vitro coagulation assays demonstrated a hypercoagulable state in obese/T2D mice that was comparable to that of diabetic patients. S. aureus with an inactivating mutation in clumping factor A (clfA) showed a reduction in bone infection severity that eliminated the effect of obesity/T2D, while infections in control mice were unchanged. In infected mice that overexpress plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), S. aureus clfA expression and fibrin-encapsulated abscess communities in bone were also increased, further linking fibrin deposition to S. aureus expression of clfA and infection severity. Together, these results demonstrate an adaptation by S. aureus to obesity/T2D with increased expression of clfA that is associated with the hypercoagulable state of the host and increased virulence of S. aureus.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01005-16
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Clumping factor A
  • Fibrinogen
  • Obesity
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Type 2 diabetes


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