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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 May;71(5):2663-76.

Differential gene expression profiling of Staphylococcus aureus cultivated under biofilm and planktonic conditions.

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Mikrobielle Genetik, Universität Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


It is well known that biofilm formation by pathogenic staphylococci on implanted medical devices leads to "chronic polymer-associated infections." Bacteria in these biofilms are more resistant to antibiotics and the immune defense system than their planktonic counterparts, which suggests that the cells in a biofilm have altered metabolic activity. To determine which genes are up-regulated in Staphylococcus aureus biofilm cells, we carried out a comparative transcriptome analysis. Biofilm growth was simulated on dialysis membranes laid on agar plates. Staphylococci were cultivated planktonically in Erlenmeyer flasks with shaking. mRNA was isolated at five time points from cells grown under both conditions and used for hybridization with DNA microarrays. The gene expression patterns of several gene groups differed under the two growth conditions. In biofilm cells, the cell envelope appeared to be a very active compartment since genes encoding binding proteins, proteins involved in the synthesis of murein and glucosaminoglycan polysaccharide intercellular adhesin, and other enzymes involved in cell envelope synthesis and function were significantly up-regulated. In addition, evidence was obtained that formate fermentation, urease activity, the response to oxidative stress, and, as a consequence thereof, acid and ammonium production are up-regulated in a biofilm. These factors might contribute to survival, persistence, and growth in a biofilm environment. Interestingly, toxins and proteases were up-regulated under planktonic growth conditions. Physiological and biochemical tests for the up-regulation of urease, formate dehydrogenase, proteases, and the synthesis of staphyloxanthin confirmed the microarray data.

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