Transcriptional regulation of icaADBC by both IcaR and TcaR in staphylococcus epidermidis

Tra My Hoang, C. Zhou, J. K. Lindgren, M. R. Galac, B. Corey, J. E. Endres, M. E. Olson, P. D. Fey

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22 Scopus citations


S. epidermidis is a primary cause of biofilm-mediated infections in humans due to adherence to foreign bodies. A major staphylococcal biofilm accumulation molecule is polysaccharide intracellular adhesin (PIA), which is synthesized by enzymes encoded by the icaADBC operon. Expression of PIA is highly variable among clinical isolates, suggesting that PIA expression levels are selected in certain niches of the host. However, the mechanisms that govern enhanced icaADBC transcription and PIA synthesis in these isolates are not known. We hypothesized that enhanced PIA synthesis in these isolates was due to function of IcaR and/or TcaR. Thus, two S. epidermidis isolates (1457 and CSF41498) with different icaADBC transcription and PIA expression levels were studied. Constitutive expression of both icaR and tcaR demonstrated that both repressors are functional and can completely repress icaADBC transcription in both 1457 and CSF41498. However, it was found that IcaR was the primary repressor for CSF41498 and TcaR was the primary repressor for 1457. Further analysis demonstrated that icaR transcription was repressed in 1457 in comparison to CSF41498, suggesting that TcaR functions as a repressor only in the absence of IcaR. Indeed, DNase I footprinting suggests IcaR and TcaR may bind to the same site within the icaR-icaA intergenic region. Lastly, we found mutants expressing variable amounts of PIA could rapidly be selected from both 1457 and CSF41498. Collectively, we propose that strains producing enhanced PIA synthesis are selected within certain niches of the host through several genetic mechanisms that function to repress icaR transcription, thus increasing PIA synthesis. IMPORTANCE Staphylococcus epidermidis is a commensal bacterium that resides on our skin. As a commensal, it protects humans from bacterial pathogens through a variety of mechanisms. However, it is also a significant cause of biofilm infections due to its ability to bind to plastic. Polysaccharide intercellular adhesin is a significant component of biofilm, and we propose that the expression of this polysaccharide is beneficial in certain host niches, such as providing extra strength when the bacterium is colonizing the lumen of a catheter, and detrimental in others, such as colonization of the skin surface. We show here that fine-tuning of icaADBC transcription, and thus PIA synthesis, is mediated via two transcriptional repressors, IcaR and TcaR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00524
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Biofilms
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis
  • Transcriptional regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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