Host nutrient milieu drives an essential role for aspartate biosynthesis during invasive Staphylococcus aureus infection

Aimee D. Potter, Casey E. Butrico, Caleb A. Ford, Jacob M. Curry, Irina A. Trenary, Srivarun S. Tummarakota, Andrew S. Hendrix, Jamey D. Young, James E. Cassat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus is capable of infecting a broad spectrum of host tissues, in part due to flexibility of metabolic programs. S. aureus, like all organisms, requires essential biosynthetic intermediates to synthesize macromolecules. We therefore sought to determine the metabolic pathways contributing to synthesis of essential precursors during invasive S. aureus infection. We focused specifically on staphylococcal infection of bone, one of the most common sites of invasive S. aureus infection and a unique environment characterized by dynamic substrate accessibility, infection-induced hypoxia, and a metabolic profile skewed toward aerobic glycolysis. Using a murine model of osteomyelitis, we examined survival of S. aureus mutants deficient in central metabolic pathways, including glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, and amino acid synthesis/catabolism. Despite the high glycolytic demand of skeletal cells, we discovered that S. aureus requires glycolysis for survival in bone. Furthermore, the TCA cycle is dispensable for survival during osteomyelitis, and S. aureus instead has a critical need for anaple-rosis. Bacterial synthesis of aspartate in particular is absolutely essential for staphylococcal survival in bone, despite the presence of an aspartate transporter, which we identified as GltT and confirmed biochemically. This dependence on endogenous aspartate synthesis derives from the presence of excess glutamate in infected tissue, which inhibits aspartate acquisition by S. aureus. Together, these data elucidate the metabolic pathways required for staphylococcal infection within bone and demonstrate that the host nutrient milieu can determine essentiality of bacterial nutrient biosynthesis pathways despite the presence of dedicated transporters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12394-12401
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
StatePublished - Jun 2 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Aspartate
  • Metabolism
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Pathogenesis
  • Staphylococcus aureus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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