A tactile response in Staphylococcus aureus

Biophys J. 2010 Nov 3;99(9):2803-11. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.08.063.


It is well established that bacteria are able to respond to temporal gradients (e.g., by chemotaxis). However, it is widely held that prokaryotes are too small to sense spatial gradients. This contradicts the common observation that the vast majority of bacteria live on the surface of a solid substrate (e.g., as a biofilm). Herein we report direct experimental evidence that the nonmotile bacterium Staphylococcus aureus possesses a tactile response, or primitive sense of touch, that allows it to respond to spatial gradients. Attached cells recognize their substrate interface and localize adhesins toward that region. Braille-like avidity maps reflect a cell's biochemical sensory response and reveal ultrastructural regions defined by the actual binding activity of specific proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Adhesins, Bacterial / genetics
  • Adhesins, Bacterial / physiology
  • Bacterial Adhesion / physiology
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Fibronectins / chemistry
  • Fibronectins / genetics
  • Fibronectins / physiology
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Models, Biological
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology*
  • Surface Properties


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Fibronectins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • fibronectin-binding proteins, bacterial