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Int J Med Microbiol. 2006 Apr;296(2-3):133-9. Epub 2006 Feb 17.

Staphylococcus quorum sensing in biofilm formation and infection.

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Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The National Institutes of Health, 903 S 4th Street, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.


Cell population density-dependent regulation of gene expression is an important determinant of bacterial pathogenesis. Staphylococci have two quorum-sensing (QS) systems. The accessory gene regulator (agr) is genus specific and uses a post-translationally modified peptide as an autoinducing signal. In the pathogens Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis, agr controls the expression of a series of toxins and virulence factors and the interaction with the innate immune system. However, the role of agr during infection is controversial. A possible second QS system of staphylococci, luxS, is found in a variety of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Importantly, unlike many QS systems described in Gram-negative bacteria, agr and luxS of staphylococci reduce rather than induce biofilm formation and virulence during biofilm-associated infection. agr enhances biofilm detachment by up-regulation of the expression of detergent-like peptides, whereas luxS reduces cell-to-cell adhesion by down-regulating expression of biofilm exopolysaccharide. Significant QS activity in staphylococci is observed for actively growing cells at a high cell density, such as during the initial stages of an infection and under optimal environmental conditions. In contrast, the metabolically quiescent biofilm mode of growth appears to be characterized by an overall low activity of the staphylococcal QS systems. It remains to be shown whether QS control in staphylococci represents a promising target for the development of novel antibacterial agents.

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