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Publication Date


Publication Title

Infection and Immunity


Geisel School of Medicine


We reported previously that low concentrations of sodium citrate strongly promote biofilm formation by Staphylococcus aureus laboratory strains and clinical isolates. Here, we show that citrate promotes biofilm formation via stimulating both cell-to-surface and cell-to-cell interactions. Citrate-stimulated biofilm formation is independent of the ica locus, and in fact, citrate represses polysaccharide adhesin production. We show that fibronectin binding proteins FnbA and FnbB and the global regulator SarA, which positively regulates fnbA and fnbB gene expression, are required for citrate's positive effects on biofilm formation, and citrate also stimulates fnbA and fnbB gene expression. Biofilm formation is also stimulated by several other tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle intermediates in an FnbA-dependent fashion. While aconitase contributes to biofilm formation in the absence of TCA cycle intermediates, it is not required for biofilm stimulation by these compounds. Furthermore, the GraRS two-component regulator and the GraRS-regulated efflux pump VraFG, identified for their roles in intermediate vancomycin resistance, are required for citrate-stimulated cell-to-cell interactions, but the GraRS regulatory system does not impact the expression of the fnbA and fnbB genes. Our data suggest that distinct genetic factors are required for the early steps in citrate-stimulated biofilm formation. Given the role of FnbA/FnbB and SarA in virulence in vivo and the lack of a role for ica-mediated biofilm formation in S. aureus catheter models of infection, we propose that the citrate-stimulated biofilm formation pathway may represent a clinically relevant pathway for the formation of these bacterial communities on medical implants.



Original Citation

Shanks RM, Meehl MA, Brothers KM, Martinez RM, Donegan NP, Graber ML, Cheung AL, O'Toole GA. Genetic evidence for an alternative citrate-dependent biofilm formation pathway in Staphylococcus aureus that is dependent on fibronectin binding proteins and the GraRS two-component regulatory system. Infect Immun. 2008 Jun;76(6):2469-77. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01370-07. Epub 2008 Mar 17. PMID: 18347039; PMCID: PMC2423107.