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PLOS ONE  2008 

Factors Contributing to the Biofilm-Deficient Phenotype of Staphylococcus aureus sarA Mutants

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003361

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Abstract:

Mutation of sarA in Staphylococcus aureus results in a reduced capacity to form a biofilm, but the mechanistic basis for this remains unknown. Previous transcriptional profiling experiments identified a number of genes that are differentially expressed both in a biofilm and in a sarA mutant. This included genes involved in acid tolerance and the production of nucleolytic and proteolytic exoenzymes. Based on this we generated mutations in alsSD, nuc and sspA in the S. aureus clinical isolate UAMS-1 and its isogenic sarA mutant and assessed the impact on biofilm formation. Because expression of alsSD was increased in a biofilm but decreased in a sarA mutant, we also generated a plasmid construct that allowed expression of alsSD in a sarA mutant. Mutation of alsSD limited biofilm formation, but not to the degree observed with the corresponding sarA mutant, and restoration of alsSD expression did not restore the ability to form a biofilm. In contrast, concomitant mutation of sarA and nuc significantly enhanced biofilm formation by comparison to the sarA mutant. Although mutation of sspA had no significant impact on the ability of a sarA mutant to form a biofilm, a combination of protease inhibitors (E-64, 1-10-phenanthroline, and dichloroisocoumarin) that was shown to inhibit the production of multiple extracellular proteases without inhibiting growth was also shown to enhance the ability of a sarA mutant to form a biofilm. This effect was evident only when all three inhibitors were used concurrently. This suggests that the reduced capacity of a sarA mutant to form a biofilm involves extracellular proteases of all three classes (serine, cysteine and metalloproteases). Inclusion of protease inhibitors also enhanced biofilm formation in a sarA/nuc mutant, with the combined effect of mutating nuc and adding protease inhibitors resulting in a level of biofilm formation with the sarA mutant that approached that of the UAMS-1 parent strain. These results demonstrate that the inability of a sarA mutant to repress production of extracellular nuclease and multiple proteases have independent but cumulative effects that make a significant contribution to the biofilm-deficient phenotype of an S. aureus sarA mutant.

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