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Open Access Research article

Fibronectin-binding protein B variation in Staphylococcus aureus

Fiona M Burke1, Niamh McCormack1, Simonetta Rindi2, Pietro Speziale2 and Timothy J Foster1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, Moyne Institute of Preventive Medicine, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

2 Department of Biochemistry, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:160  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-160

Published: 1 June 2010



Fibronectin binding proteins A and B (FnBPA and FnBPB) mediate adhesion of S. aureus to fibrinogen, elastin and fibronectin. We previously identified seven different isotypes of FnBPA based on divergence in the fibrinogen- and elastin-binding A domains. The variation created differences in antigenicity while ligand binding functions were retained. Here, FnBPB variation was examined in both human and bovine isolates and compared to that of FnBPA.


Seven different fnbB allelic variants were identified. Some strains that cluster by phylogenetic analysis contain different fnbB variants, whereas more divergent strains contain the same fnbB variant. The phylogeny of fnbB alleles does not match the phylogeny of fnbA alleles. Some FnBPA and FnBPB isotypes that are specified by human S. aureus strains are also found in bovine strains. The seven fnbB allelic variants encode seven distinct isotypes of the FnBPB A domain that are 61 to 85% identical in amino acid sequence. Variant amino acid residues were mapped on a three-dimensional model of the FnBPB A domain and were predicted to be surface-exposed. They are responsible for the antigenic diversity detected with polyclonal antibody and a monoclonal antibody raised against isotype I. Ligand binding by recombinant FnBPB N23 isotypes was compared by ELISA-based solid phase assays and surface plasmon resonance. Each bound to immobilized fibrinogen, elastin and fibronectin dose-dependently and saturably with similar affinities. Binding to fibronectin was surprising because the A domains do not contain any known motifs that mediate binding to fibronectin. This raises the possibility that the A domain of FnBPB contains a novel fibronectin binding motif that binds fibronectin by a novel mechanism.


Seven different isoforms of FnBPB A domain retain ligand-binding functions but are antigenically distinct. The variation in FnBPA and FnBPB occurs in human and bovine S. aureus strains and may act as an immune evasion mechanism. All seven isotypes of FnBPB are capable of binding fibronectin though none contain any known fibronectin-binding motifs. These results have implications for the development of vaccines or immunotherapeutics that target FnBPB