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PLoS One. 2009 Oct 23;4(10):e7567. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007567.

Molecular characterization of a novel Staphylococcus aureus surface protein (SasC) involved in cell aggregation and biofilm accumulation.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology, University Hospital of Münster, Münster, Germany.



Staphylococci belong to the most important pathogens causing implant-associated infections. Colonization of the implanted medical devices by the formation of a three-dimensional structure made of bacteria and host material called biofilm is considered the most critical factor in these infections. To form a biofilm, bacteria first attach to the surface of the medical device, and then proliferate and accumulate into multilayered cell clusters. Biofilm accumulation may be mediated by polysaccharide and protein factors.


The information on Staphylococcus aureus protein factors involved in biofilm accumulation is limited, therefore, we searched the S. aureus Col genome for LPXTG-motif containing potential surface proteins and chose the so far uncharacterized S. aureus surface protein C (SasC) for further investigation. The deduced SasC sequence consists of 2186 amino acids with a molecular mass of 238 kDa and has features typical of gram-positive surface proteins, such as an N-terminal signal peptide, a C-terminal LPXTG cell wall anchorage motif, and a repeat region consisting of 17 repeats similar to the domain of unknown function 1542 (DUF1542). We heterologously expressed sasC in Staphylococcus carnosus, which led to the formation of huge cell aggregates indicative of intercellular adhesion and biofilm accumulation. To localize the domain conferring cell aggregation, we expressed two subclones of sasC encoding either the N-terminal domain including a motif that is found in various architectures (FIVAR) or 8 of the DUF1542 repeats. SasC or its N-terminal domain, but not the DUF1542 repeat region conferred production of huge cell aggregates, higher attachment to polystyrene, and enhanced biofilm formation to S. carnosus and S. aureus. SasC does not mediate binding to fibrinogen, thrombospondin-1, von Willebrand factor, or platelets as determined by flow cytometry.


Thus, SasC represents a novel S. aureus protein factor involved in cell aggregation and biofilm formation, which may play an important role in colonization during infection with this important pathogen.

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