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PLoS Pathog. 2012;8(6):e1002744. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002744. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

Functional amyloids composed of phenol soluble modulins stabilize Staphylococcus aureus biofilms.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.


Staphylococcus aureus is an opportunistic pathogen that colonizes the skin and mucosal surfaces of mammals. Persistent staphylococcal infections often involve surface-associated communities called biofilms. Here we report the discovery of a novel extracellular fibril structure that promotes S. aureus biofilm integrity. Biochemical and genetic analysis has revealed that these fibers have amyloid-like properties and consist of small peptides called phenol soluble modulins (PSMs). Mutants unable to produce PSMs were susceptible to biofilm disassembly by matrix degrading enzymes and mechanical stress. Previous work has associated PSMs with biofilm disassembly, and we present data showing that soluble PSM peptides disperse biofilms while polymerized peptides do not. This work suggests the PSMs' aggregation into amyloid fibers modulates their biological activity and role in biofilms.

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