SaeRS is responsive to cellular respiratory status and regulates fermentative biofilm formation in Staphylococcus aureus

Ameya A. Mashruwala, Casey M. Gries, Tyler D. Scherr, Tammy Kielian, Jeffrey M. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Biofilms are multicellular communities of microorganisms living as a quorum rather than as individual cells. The bacterial human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus uses oxygen as a terminal electron acceptor during respiration. Infected human tissues are hypoxic or anoxic. We recently reported that impaired respiration elicits a programmed cell lysis (PCL) phenomenon in S. aureus leading to the release of cellular polymers that are utilized to form biofilms. PCL is dependent upon the AtlA murein hydrolase and is regulated, in part, by the SrrAB two-component regulatory system (TCRS). In the current study, we report that the SaeRS TCRS also governs fermentative biofilm formation by positively influencing AtlA activity. The SaeRSmodulated factor fibronectin-binding protein A (FnBPA) also contributed to the fermentative biofilm formation phenotype. SaeRS-dependent biofilm formation occurred in response to changes in cellular respiratory status. Genetic evidence presented suggests that a high cellular titer of phosphorylated SaeR is required for biofilm formation. Epistasis analyses found that SaeRS and SrrAB influence biofilm formation independently of one another. Analyses using a mouse model of orthopedic implant-associated biofilm formation found that both SaeRS and SrrAB govern host colonization. Of these two TCRSs, SrrAB was the dominant system driving biofilm formation in vivo. We propose a model wherein impaired cellular respiration stimulates SaeRS via an as yet undefined signal molecule(s), resulting in increasing expression of AtlA and FnBPA and biofilm formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00157-17
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • AtlA
  • Biofilm
  • Fermentation
  • FnBPA
  • Oxygen
  • Respiration
  • SaeSR
  • SrrAB
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Teichoic acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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