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J Bacteriol. Jan 1996; 178(1): 175–183.
PMCID: PMC177636

The intercellular adhesin involved in biofilm accumulation of Staphylococcus epidermidis is a linear beta-1,6-linked glucosaminoglycan: purification and structural analysis.


The primary attachment to polymer surfaces followed by accumulation in multilayered cell clusters leads to biofilm production of Staphylococcus epidermidis, which is thought to contribute to virulence in biomaterial-related infections. We purified a specific polysaccharide antigen of biofilm-producing S. epidermidis 1457 and RP62A, which was recently shown to have a function in the accumulative phase of biofilm production by mediating intercellular adhesion (D. Mack, M. Nedelmann, A. Krokotsch, A. Schwarzkopf, J. Heesemann, and R. Laufs, Infect. Immun. 62:3244-3253, 1994). Following Sephadex G-200 gel filtration, this antigen was separated by Q-Sepharose chromatography into a major polysaccharide, polysaccharide I (> 80%), which did not bind to Q-Sepharose, and a minor polysaccharide, polysaccharide II (< 20%), which was moderately anionic. As shown by chemical analyses and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, polysaccharide I is a linear homoglycan of at least 130 beta-1,6-linked 2-deoxy-2-amino-D-glucopyranosyl residues. On average, 80 to 85% of them are N acetylated; the rest are non-N-acetylating and positively charged. Chain cleavage by deamination with HNO2 revealed a more or less random distribution of the non-N-acetylated glucosaminyl residues, with some prevalence of glucosaminyl-rich sequences. Cation-exchange chromatography separated molecular species whose content of non-N-acetylated glucosaminyl residues varied between 2 and 26%. Polysaccharide II is structurally related to polysaccharide I but has a lower content of non-N-acetylated D-glucosaminyl residues and contains phosphate and ester-linked succinate, rendering it anionic. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay inhibition with various monosaccharides revealed the beta-anomeric form and the acetylated amino group of the D-glucosaminyl residues as important for reactivity with the specific antiserum. The unbranched polysaccharide structure favors long-range contacts and interactions between polysaccharide strands and the cell wall and/or lectin-like proteins, leading to intercellular adhesion and biofilm accumulation. The structure of the polysaccharide is, so far, considered to be unique and, according to its function, is referred to as S. epidermidis polysaccharide intercellular adhesin (PIA).

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Selected References

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