Mathematical modelling of the agr operon in Staphylococcus aureus

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Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Adelaide


Staphylococcus aureus is a pathogenic bacterium that utilises quorum sensing (QS), a cell-to-cell signalling mechanism, to enhance its ability to cause disease. QS allows the bacteria to monitor their surroundings and the size of their population, and S. aureus makes use of this to regulate the production of virulence factors. Here we describe a mathematical model of this QS system and perform a detailed time-dependent asymptotic analysis in order to clarify the roles of the distinct interactions that make up the QS process, demonstrating which reactions dominate the behaviour of the system at various timepoints. We couple this analysis with numerical simulations and are thus able to gain insight into how a large population of S. aureus shifts from a relatively harmless state to a highly virulent one, focussing on the need for the three distinct phases which form the feedback loop of this particular QS system.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-54
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010