Fluorescent reporters for Staphylococcus aureus

J Microbiol Methods. 2009 Jun;77(3):251-60. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2009.02.011. Epub 2009 Mar 3.


With the emergence of Staphylococcus aureus as a prominent pathogen in community and healthcare settings, there is a growing need for effective reporter tools to facilitate physiology and pathogenesis studies. Fluorescent proteins are ideal as reporters for their convenience in monitoring gene expression, performing host interaction studies, and monitoring biofilm growth. We have developed a suite of fluorescent reporter plasmids for labeling S. aureus cells. These plasmids encode either green fluorescent protein (GFP) or higher wavelength reporter variants for yellow (YFP) and red (mCherry) labeling. The reporters were placed under control of characterized promoters to enable constitutive or inducible expression. Additionally, plasmids were assembled with fluorescent reporters under control of the agr quorum-sensing and sigma factor B promoters, and the fluorescent response with wildtype and relevant mutant strains was characterized. Interestingly, reporter expression displayed a strong dependence on ribosome binding site (RBS) sequence, with the superoxide dismutase RBS displaying the strongest expression kinetics of the sequences examined. To test the robustness of the reporter plasmids, cell imaging was performed with fluorescence microscopy and cell populations were separated using florescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), demonstrating the possibilities of simultaneous monitoring of multiple S. aureus properties. Finally, a constitutive YFP reporter displayed stable, robust labeling of biofilm growth in a flow-cell apparatus. This toolbox of fluorescent reporter plasmids will facilitate cell labeling for a variety of different experimental applications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Genes, Reporter*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / cytology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology


  • Luminescent Proteins