Staphylococcus aureus flavohaemoglobin contributes to early stage biofilm development under nitrosative stress

Sandra M. Carvalho, Cláudia S. Freitas, Ana S. Oliveira, Lígia M. Saraiva

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Staphylococcus aureus is a Gram-positive bacterium with capacity to form biofilms, which constitute an important resistance mechanism and virulence factor. Flavohaemoglobin (Hmp) is a major nitric oxide (NO) detoxifier of several bacteria, including S. aureus. Although Hmp has a well-known physiological role linked to response of planktonic cells to nitrosative stress, its contribution to biofilm formation remains unaddressed. Hence, in this work, we investigated the role of Hmp in biofilm development of a methicillin-resistant S. aureus strain. For this purpose, we exposed the hmp mutant to nitrosative stress and examined its behaviour along biofilm development. We observed that cells inactivated in hmp and grown under nitrosative stress conditions have significantly impaired capacity to develop early stage biofilms. Furthermore, the wild-type biofilm phenotype was fully restored by trans-complementation of hmp in the hmp mutant. Coculture studies of NO-producing macrophages with S. aureus revealed that the hmp mutant has significantly lower capacity to develop biofilm biomass when compared with the wild type. Thus, we concluded that the pathogen S. aureus relies on Hmp to establish viable biofilms in the presence of cells of the host innate immune system.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfnab131
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2021


  • early stage biofilm
  • flavohaemoglobin
  • macrophages
  • methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • nitric oxide
  • nitrosative stress


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