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Hypericin enhances β-lactam antibiotics activity by inhibiting sarA expression in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus


Bacteremia is a life-threating syndrome often caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Thus, there is an urgent need to develop novel approaches to successfully treat this infection. Staphylococcal accessory regulator A (SarA), a global virulence regulator, plays a critical role in pathogenesis and β-lactam antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus. Hypericin is believed to act as an antibiotic, antidepressant, antiviral and non-specific kinase inhibitor. In the current study, we investigated the impact of hypericin on β-lactam antibiotics susceptibility and mechanism(s) of its activity. We demonstrated that hypericin significantly decreased the minimum inhibitory concentrations of β-lactam antibiotics (e.g., oxacillin, cefazolin and nafcillin), biofilm formation and fibronectin binding in MRSA strain JE2. In addition, hypericin significantly reduced sarA expression, and subsequently decreased mecA, and virulence-related regulators (e.g., agr RNAⅢ) and genes (e.g., fnbA and hla) expression in the studied MRSA strain. Importantly, the in vitro synergistic effect of hypericin with β-lactam antibiotic (e.g., oxacillin) translated into in vivo therapeutic outcome in a murine MRSA bacteremia model. These findings suggest that hypericin plays an important role in abrogation of β-lactam resistance against MRSA through sarA inhibition, and may allow us to repurpose the use of β-lactam antibiotics, which are normally ineffective in the treatment of MRSA infections (e.g., oxacillin).

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