The opportunistic pathogen Staphylococcus aureus encounters a wide variety of fluid shear levels within the human host, and they may play a key role in dictating whether this organism adopts a commensal interaction with the host or transitions to cause disease. By using rotating-wall vessel bioreactors to create a physiologically relevant, low-fluid-shear environment, S. aureus was evaluated for cellular responses that could impact its colonization and virulence. S. aureus cells grown in a low-fluid-shear environment initiated a novel attachment-independent biofilm phenotype and were completely encased in extracellular polymeric substances. Compared to controls, low-shear-cultured cells displayed slower growth and repressed virulence characteristics, including decreased carotenoid production, increased susceptibility to oxidative stress, and reduced survival in whole blood. Transcriptional whole-genome microarray profiling suggested alterations in metabolic pathways. Further genetic expression analysis revealed downregulation of the RNA chaperone Hfq, which parallels low-fluid-shear responses of certain Gram-negative organisms. This is the first study to report an Hfq association with fluid shear in a Gram-positive organism, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved response to fluid shear among structurally diverse prokaryotes. Collectively, our results suggest S. aureus responds to a low-fluid-shear environment by initiating a biofilm/colonization phenotype with diminished virulence characteristics, which could lead to insight into key factors influencing the divergence between infection and colonization during the initial host-pathogen interaction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology