Association of Metal Homeostasis and (p)ppGpp Regulation in the Pathophysiology of Enterococcus faecalis.

In Enterococcus faecalis, the regulatory nucleotides pppGpp and ppGpp, collectively, (p)ppGpp, are required for growth in blood, survival within macrophages, and virulence. However, a clear understanding of how (p)ppGpp promotes virulence in E. faecalis and other bacterial pathogens is still lacking. In the host, the essential transition metals iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) are not readily available to invading pathogens because of a host-driven process called nutritional immunity. Considering its central role in adaptation to nutritional stresses, we hypothesized that (p)ppGpp mediates E. faecalis virulence through regulation of metal homeostasis. Indeed, supplementation of serum with either Fe or Mn restored growth and survival of the Δrel ΔrelQ [(p)ppGpp0] strain to wild-type levels. Using a chemically defined medium, we found that (p)ppGpp accumulates in response to either Fe depletion or Mn depletion and that the (p)ppGpp0 strain has a strong growth requirement for Mn that is alleviated by Fe supplementation. Although inactivation of the nutrient-sensing regulator codY restored some phenotypes of the (p)ppGpp0 strain, transcriptional analysis showed that the (p)ppGpp/CodY network does not promote transcription of known metal transporters. Interestingly, physiologic and enzymatic investigations suggest that the (p)ppGpp0 strain requires higher levels of Mn in order to cope with high levels of endogenously produced reactive oxygen species (ROS). Because (p)ppGpp mediates antibiotic persistence and virulence in several bacteria, our findings have broad implications and provide new leads for the development of novel therapeutic and preventive strategies against E. faecalis and beyond.