Biofilm formation is the primary virulence factor of Staphylococcus epidermidis. S. epidermidis biofilms preferentially form on abiotic surfaces and may contain multiple matrix components, including proteins such as accumulation-associated protein (Aap). Following proteolytic cleavage of the A domain, which has been shown to enhance binding to host cells, B domain homotypic interactions support cell accumulation and biofilm formation. To further define the contribution of Aap to biofilm formation and infection, we constructed an aap allelic replacement mutant and an icaADBC aap double mutant. When subjected to fluid shear, strains deficient in Aap production produced significantly less biofilm than Aap-positive strains. To examine the in vivo relevance of our findings, we modified our previously described rat jugular catheter model and validated the importance of immunosuppression and the presence of a foreign body to the establishment of infection. The use of our allelic replacement mutants in the model revealed a significant decrease in bacterial recovery from the catheter and the blood in the absence of Aap, regardless of the production of polysaccharide intercellular adhesin (PIA), a well-characterized, robust matrix molecule. Complementation of the aap mutant with full-length Aap (containing the A domain), but not the B domain alone, increased initial attachment to microtiter plates, as did in trans expression of the A domain in adhesion-deficient Staphylococcus carnosus. These results demonstrate Aap contributes to S. epidermidis infection, which may in part be due to A domain-mediated attachment to abiotic surfaces.
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