Marginal role of von Willebrand factor-binding protein and coagulase in the initiation of endocarditis in rats with catheter-induced aortic vegetations

Staphylococcus aureus is the leading cause of infective endocarditis (IE). While the role of S. aureus cell-wall associated protein clumping factor A (ClfA) in promoting IE has been already demonstrated, that of the secreted plasma-clotting factors staphylocoagulase (Coa) and von Willebrand factor-binding protein (vWbp) has not yet been elucidated. We investigated the role of Coa and vWbp in IE initiation in rats with catheter-induced aortic vegetations, using Lactococcus lactis expressing coa, vWbp, clfA or vWbp/clfA, and S. aureus Newman Δcoa, ΔvWbp, ΔclfA or Δcoa/ΔvWbp/ΔclfA mutants. vWbp-expression increased L. lactis valve infection compared to parent and coa-expressing strains (incidence: 62%, versus 0% and 13%, respectively; < 0.01). Likewise, expression of clfA increased L. lactis infectivity (incidence: 80%), which was not further affected by co-expression of vWbp. In symmetry, deletion of the coa or vWbp genes in S. aureus did not decrease infectivity (incidence: 68 and 64%, respectively) whereas deletion of clfA did decrease valve infection (incidence: 45%; = 0.03 versus parent), which was not further affected by the triple deletion Δcoa/ΔvWbp/ΔclfA (incidence: 36%; > 0.05 versus ΔclfA mutant). Coa does not support the initial colonization of IE (in L. lactis) without other key virulence factors and vWbp contributes to initiation of IE (in L. lactis) but is marginal in the present of ClfA.