Antigenic landscapes on Staphylococcus aureus pore-forming toxins reveal insights into specificity and cross-neutralization

Shweta Kailasan, Ravi Kant, Madeleine Noonan-Shueh, Tulasikumari Kanipakala, Grant Liao, Sergey Shulenin, Daisy W. Leung, Richard A. Alm, Rajan P. Adhikari, Gaya K. Amarasinghe, Michael L. Gross, M. Javad Aman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Staphylococcus aureus carries an exceptional repertoire of virulence factors that aid in immune evasion. Previous single-target approaches for S. aureus-specific vaccines and monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have failed in clinical trials due to the multitude of virulence factors released during infection. Emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains demands a multi-target approach involving neutralization of different, non-overlapping pathogenic factors. Of the several pore-forming toxins that contribute to S. aureus pathogenesis, efforts have largely focused on mAbs that neutralize α-hemolysin (Hla) and target the receptor-binding site. Here, we isolated two anti-Hla and three anti-Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (LukSF-PV) mAbs, and used a combination of hydrogen deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS) and alanine scanning mutagenesis to delineate and validate the toxins’ epitope landscape. Our studies identified two novel, neutralizing epitopes targeted by 2B6 and CAN6 on Hla that provided protection from hemolytic activity in vitro and showed synergy in rodent pneumonia model against lethal challenge. Of the anti-LukF mAbs, SA02 and SA131 showed specific neutralization activity to LukSF-PV while SA185 showed cross-neutralization activity to LukSF-PV, γ-hemolysin HlgAB, and leukotoxin ED. We further compared these antigen-specific mAbs to two broadly neutralizing mAbs, H5 (targets Hla, LukSF-PV, HlgAB, HlgCB, and LukED) and SA185 (targeting LukSF-PV, HlgAB, and LukED), and identified molecular level markers for broad-spectrum reactivity among the pore-forming toxins by HDX-MS. To further underscore the need to target the cross-reactive epitopes on leukocidins for the development of broad-spectrum therapies, we annotated Hla sequences isolated from patients in multiple countries for genomic variations within the perspective of our defined epitopes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2083467
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • MRSA
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • epitope mapping
  • hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry
  • leukocidin
  • monoclonal antibodies
  • pneumonia
  • Α-hemolysin


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