The human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus is renowned for the rapid colonization of contaminated wounds, medical implants, and food products. Nevertheless, little is known about the mechanisms that allow S. aureus to colonize the respective wet surfaces. The present studies were therefore aimed at identifying factors used by S. aureus cells to spread over wet surfaces, starting either from planktonic or biofilm-associated states. Through proteomics analyses we pinpoint phenol-soluble modulins (PSMs) as prime facilitators of the spreading process. To dissect the roles of the eight PSMs produced by S. aureus, these peptides were chemically synthesized and tested in spreading assays with different psm mutant strains. The results show that PSMα3 and PSMγ are the strongest facilitators of spreading both for planktonic cells and cells in catheter-associated biofilms. Compared to the six other PSMs of S. aureus, PSMα3 and PSMγ combine strong surfactant activities with a relatively low overall hydropathicity. Importantly, we show that PSM-mediated motility of S. aureus facilitates the rapid colonization of wet surfaces next to catheters and the colonization of fresh meat.
- Bacterial Toxins/chemical synthesis
- Biofilms/growth & development
- Environmental Microbiology
- Staphylococcus aureus/growth & development
- Surface-Active Agents/metabolism