Staphylococcus aureus protein A causes osteoblasts to hyper-mineralise in a 3D extra-cellular matrix environment.
Osteomyelitis is an inflammatory bone infection that is caused most commonly by the opportunistic pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. Research into staphylococcal induced bone infection is typically conducted using traditional 2D in vitro culture settings, which is not fully representative of the dynamic in vivo environment. In this study we utilised a collagen glycosaminoglycan scaffold, previously developed for bone tissue engineering, as a representative 3D model of infection. The scaffold resisted degradation and retained its pore structure, which is important for cellular function and survival, when seeded with both cells and bacteria. Using this model, we showed that in the presence of S. aureus, osteoblast proliferation was reduced over 21 days. Interestingly however these cells were more metabolically active compared to the uninfected cells and demonstrated increased mineralisation. Protein A (SpA) is a virulence factor found on the surface of S. aureus and has been shown to interact with osteoblasts. When SpA was removed from the surface of S. aureus, the osteoblasts show comparable activity with the uninfected cells-demonstrating the importance of SpA in the interaction between bone cells and S. aureus. Our results suggest that infected osteoblasts are capable of over-compensating for bone loss and bone destruction by increasing mineralisation in a 3D environment, key elements required for ensuring bone strength. It also reinforces our previously established result that S. aureus SpA is a critical mediator in osteomyelitis and might be a potential novel drug target to treat osteomyelitis by preventing the interaction between S. aureus and osteoblasts.