10 May 2019
Dendritic cells (DCs) are key players of the immune system and thus a target for immune evasion by pathogens. We recently showed that the virulence factors phenol-soluble-modulins (PSMs) produced by community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) strains induce tolerogenic DCs upon Toll-like receptor activation via the p38-CREB-IL-10 pathway in vitro. Here, we addressed the hypothesis that S. aureus PSMs disturb the adaptive immune response via modulation of DC subsets in vivo. Using a systemic mouse infection model we found that S. aureus reduced the numbers of splenic DC subsets, mainly CD4 + and CD8 + DCs independently of PSM secretion. S. aureus infection induced upregulation of the C-C motif chemokine receptor 7 (CCR7) on the surface of all DC subsets, on CD4 + DCs in a PSM-dependent manner, together with increased expression of MHCII, CD86, CD80, CD40, and the co-inhibitory molecule PD-L2, with only minor effects of PSMs. Moreover, PSMs increased IL-10 production in the spleen and impaired TNF production by CD4 + DCs. Besides, S. aureus PSMs reduced the number of CD4 + T cells in the spleen, whereas CD4 +CD25 +Foxp3 + regulatory T cells (T regs) were increased. In contrast, Th1 and Th17 priming and IFN-γ production by CD8 + T cells were impaired by S. aureus PSMs. Thus, PSMs from highly virulent S. aureus strains modulate the adaptive immune response in the direction of tolerance by affecting DC functions.