Protein A (SpA) of Staphylococcus aureus is endowed with the capacity to interact with the H chain variable region (V(H)) of human Abs and to target >40% of B lymphocytes. To investigate whether this property represents a virulence factor and to determine the in vivo consequences of the confrontation of SpA with B lymphocytes, we used transgenic mice expressing fully human Abs. We found that administration of soluble SpA reduces B-1a lymphocytes of the peritoneal cavity and marginal zone B lymphocytes of the spleen, resulting in a markedly deficient type 2 humoral response. Single-cell PCR analysis and sequencing of the Ab V(H) gene repertoire revealed a significant reduction of V(H)3+ marginal zone B cells. Since the two B lymphocyte subsets targeted are involved in innate immune functions, our data suggest that crippling of humoral immunity by S. aureus represents an immune evasion mechanism that may aggravate recurrent infections.
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