Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Microbiology and Immunology


The peptidoglycan of Staphylococcus aureus is a critical cell envelope constituent and virulence factor that subverts host immune defenses and provides protection against environmental stressors. Peptidoglycan chains of the S. aureus cell wall are processed to characteristically short lengths by the glucosaminidase, SagB. It is well established that peptidoglycan is an important pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP) that is recognized by the host innate immune system and promotes production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including IL-1β. However, how bacterial processing of peptidoglycan drives IL-1β production is comparatively unexplored. Here, we tested the involvement of staphylococcal glucosaminidases in shaping innate immune responses and identified SagB as a mediator of IL-1β production. A ∆sagB mutant fails to promote IL-1β production by macrophages and dendritic cells and processing of peptidoglycan by SagB is essential for this response. SagB-dependent IL-1β production by macrophages is independent of canonical pattern recognition receptor engagement and NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated caspase activity. Instead, treatment of macrophages with heat-killed cells from a ∆sagB mutant leads to reduced caspase-independent cleavage of pro-IL-1β resulting in accumulation of the pro-form in the macrophage cytosol. Furthermore, SagB is required for virulence in systemic infection and promotes IL-1β production in a skin and soft tissue infection model. Taken together, our results suggest that the length of S. aureus cell wall glycan chains can drive IL-1β production by innate immune cells through a previously undescribed mechanism related to IL-1β maturation.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Available for download on Thursday, March 27, 2025

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