• enterotoxin genes;
  • pathogenicity islands;
  • Staphylococcus aureus;
  • toxin production


Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs) form a growing family of mobile genetic elements (MGEs) in Staphylococci. Horizontal genetic transfer by MGEs plays an important role in the evolution of S. aureus. Several SaPIs carry staphylococcal enterotoxin and SE-like toxin genes. To comprehensively investigate the diversity of SaPIs, a series of primers corresponding to sequences flanking six SaPI insertion sites in S. aureus genome were designed and a long and accurate (LA)-PCR analysis method established. LA-PCR products of 13–17 kbp were observed in strains with seb, selk or selq genes. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis showed that the products have different RFLP characteristics than do previously described SaPIs; they were therefore predicted to include new SaPIs. Nucleotide sequencing analysis revealed seven novel SaPIs: seb-harboring SaPIivm10, SaPishikawa11, SaPIivm60, SaPIno10 and SaPIhirosaki4, selk and selq-harboring SaPIj11 and non-superantigen-harboring SaPIhhms2. These SaPIs have mosaic structures containing components of known SaPIs and other unknown genes. Strains carrying different SaPIs were found to have significantly different production of superantigen toxins. The present results show that the LA-PCR approach can comprehensively identify SaPI diversity and is useful for investigating the evolution of S. aureus pathogenicity.