Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilms undergo metabolic and matrix remodeling under nitrosative stress

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Staphylococcus epidermidis is a commensal skin bacterium that forms host- and antibiotic-resistant biofilms that are a major cause of implant-associated infections. Most research has focused on studying the responses to host-imposed stresses on planktonic bacteria. In this work, we addressed the open question of how S. epidermidis thrives on toxic concentrations of nitric oxide (NO) produced by host innate immune cells during biofilm assembly. We analyzed alterations of gene expression, metabolism, and matrix structure of biofilms of two clinical isolates of S. epidermidis, namely, 1457 and RP62A, formed under NO stress conditions. In both strains, NO lowers the amount of biofilm mass and causes increased production of lactate and decreased acetate excretion from biofilm glucose metabolism. Transcriptional analysis revealed that NO induces icaA, which is directly involved in polysaccharide intercellular adhesion (PIA) production, and genes encoding proteins of the amino sugar pathway (glmM and glmU) that link glycolysis to PIA synthesis. However, the strains seem to have distinct regulatory mechanisms to boost lactate production, as NO causes a substantial upregulation of ldh gene in strain RP62A but not in strain 1457. The analysis of the matrix components of the staphylococcal biofilms, assessed by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), showed that NO stimulates PIA and protein production and interferes with biofilm structure in a strain-dependent manner, but independently of the Ldh level. Thus, NO resistance is attained by remodeling the staphylococcal matrix architecture and adaptation of main metabolic processes, likely providing in vivo fitness of S. epidermidis biofilms contacting NO-proficient macrophages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1200923
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • biofilm metabolism
  • confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM)
  • nitrosative stress
  • nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis


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