Copper Resistance Promotes Fitness of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus during Urinary Tract Infection. Academic Article uri icon


  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most common infectious conditions affecting people in the United States and around the world. Our knowledge of the host-pathogen interaction during UTI caused by Gram-positive bacterial uropathogens is limited compared to that for Gram-negative pathogens. Here, we investigated whether copper and the primary copper-containing protein, ceruloplasmin, are mobilized to urine during naturally occurring UTI caused by Gram-positive uropathogens in patients. Next, we probed the role of copper resistance in the fitness of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) during experimental UTI in a murine model. Our findings demonstrate that urinary copper and ceruloplasmin content are elevated during UTI caused by Enterococcus faecalis, S. aureus, S. epidermidis, and S. saprophyticus. MRSA strains successfully colonize the urinary tract of female CBA mice with selective induction of inflammation in the kidneys but not the bladder. MRSA mutants lacking CopL, a copper-binding cell surface lipoprotein, and the ACME genomic region containing copL, exhibit decreased fitness in the mouse urinary tract compared to parental strains. Copper sensitivity assays, cell-associated copper and iron content, and bioavailability of iron during copper stress demonstrate that homeostasis of copper and iron is interlinked in S. aureus. Importantly, relative fitness of the MRSA mutant lacking the ACME region is further decreased in mice that receive supplemental copper compared to the parental strain. In summary, copper is mobilized to the urinary tract during UTI caused by Gram-positive pathogens, and copper resistance is a fitness factor for MRSA during UTI. IMPORTANCE Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an extremely common infectious condition affecting people throughout the world. Increasing antibiotic resistance in pathogens causing UTI threatens our ability to continue to treat patients in the clinics. Better understanding of the host-pathogen interface is critical for development of novel interventional strategies. Here, we sought to elucidate the role of copper in host-Staphylococcus aureus interaction during UTI. Our results reveal that copper is mobilized to the urine as a host response in patients with UTI. Our findings from the murine model of UTI demonstrate that copper resistance is involved in the fitness of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) during interaction with the host. We also establish a critical link between adaptation to copper stress and iron homeostasis in S. aureus.

published proceedings

  • mBio

altmetric score

  • 6.7

author list (cited authors)

  • Saenkham-Huntsinger, P., Hyre, A. N., Hanson, B. S., Donati, G. L., Adams, L. G., Ryan, C., ... Subashchandrabose, S.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Saenkham-Huntsinger, Panatda||Hyre, Amanda N||Hanson, Braden S||Donati, George L||Adams, L Garry||Ryan, Chanelle||LondoƱo, Alejandra||Moustafa, Ahmed M||Planet, Paul J||Subashchandrabose, Sargurunathan

editor list (cited editors)

  • Justice, S.

publication date

  • October 2021

published in