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Journal of Bacteriology


Staphylococcus aureus responds to changing extracellular environments in part by adjusting its proteome through alterations of transcriptional priorities and selective degradation of the preexisting pool of proteins. In Bacillus subtilis, the proteolytic adaptor protein MecA has been shown to play a role in assisting with the proteolytic degradation of proteins involved in competence and the oxidative stress response. However, the targets of TrfA, the MecA homolog in S. aureus, have not been well characterized. In this work, we investigated how TrfA assists chaperones and proteases to regulate the proteolysis of several classes of proteins in S. aureus. By fusing the last 3 amino acids of the SsrA degradation tag to Venus, a rapidly folding yellow fluorescent protein, we obtained both fluorescence-based and Western blot assay-based evidence that TrfA and ClpCP are the adaptor and protease, respectively, responsible for the degradation of the SsrA-tagged protein in S. aureus. Notably, the impact of TrfA on degradation was most prominent during late log phase and early stationary phase, due in part to a combination of transcriptional regulation and proteolytic degradation of TrfA by ClpCP. We also characterized the temporal transcriptional regulation governing TrfA activity, wherein Spx, a redox-sensitive transcriptional regulator degraded by ClpXP, activates trfA transcription while repressing its own promoter. Finally, the scope of TrfA-mediated proteolysis was expanded by identifying TrfA as the adaptor that works with ClpCP to degrade antitoxins in S. aureus. Together, these results indicate that the adaptor TrfA adds temporal nuance to protein degradation by ClpCP in S. aureus.