Encapsulated Staphylococcus aureus strains vary in adhesiveness assessed by atomic force microscopy

J Biomed Mater Res A. 2009 May;89(2):402-10. doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.31973.


Staphylococcus aureus capsular polysaccharides are believed to play a role in adhesion to surfaces and may contribute to their antimicrobial resistance, thereby increasing the rates and severity of associated infections. The purpose of this study was to compare the adhesiveness of distinct S. aureus capsular polysaccharides to determine whether adhesiveness was a general or specific feature across different S. aureus strains. Atomic force microscopy was used to confirm the presence or absence of capsular polysaccharides and to measure adhesive forces on a noncapsulated, serotype 8, and serotype 2 strain of S. aureus. Serotype 8 displayed a larger range of adhesive forces (1-19 nN) than the noncapsulated (0-4 nN) and serotype 2 (0-4 nN) strain. The majority of adhesive forces for serotype 8 were in the 10-15 nN range. Removal of capsular polysaccharides gave a marked decrease in adhesive forces measured for serotype 8 and, to a lesser extent, a decrease for serotype 2. Noncapsulated, serotype 8, and serotype 2 S. aureus had water contact angles of 23.8 (+/-8.9), 34.4 (+/-2.5), and 56.7 (+/-11.2) degrees (mean +/- standard deviation), respectively. For the first time, capsular polysaccharides from serotype 8 (clinically common) and serotype 2 (clinically rare) were demonstrated to have different physical properties, which may account for variations in studies in which clinical isolates are utilized, and the conflict in proposed roles for capsular polysaccharides on S. aureus is explained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Adhesion*
  • Bacterial Capsules / ultrastructure*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force*
  • Models, Biological
  • Staphylococcus aureus / ultrastructure*
  • Surface Properties
  • Water


  • Water