Impact of Environmental Cues on Staphylococcal Quorum Sensing and Biofilm Development

J Biol Chem. 2016 Jun 10;291(24):12556-12564. doi: 10.1074/jbc.R116.722710. Epub 2016 Apr 21.


Staphylococci are commensal bacteria that colonize the epithelial surfaces of humans and many other mammals. These bacteria can also attach to implanted medical devices and develop surface-associated biofilm communities that resist clearance by host defenses and available chemotherapies. These communities are often associated with persistent staphylococcal infections that place a tremendous burden on the healthcare system. Understanding the regulatory program that controls staphylococcal biofilm development, as well as the environmental conditions that modulate this program, has been a focal point of research in recent years. A central regulator controlling biofilm development is a peptide quorum-sensing system, also called the accessory gene regulator or agr system. In the opportunistic pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, the agr system controls production of exo-toxins and exo-enzymes essential for causing infections, and simultaneously, it modulates the ability of this pathogen to attach to surfaces and develop a biofilm, or to disperse from the biofilm state. In this review, we explore advances on the interconnections between the agr quorum-sensing system and biofilm mechanisms, and topics covered include recent findings on how different environmental conditions influence quorum sensing, the impact on biofilm development, and ongoing questions and challenges in the field. As our understanding of the quorum sensing and biofilm interconnection advances, there are growing opportunities to take advantage of this knowledge and develop therapeutic approaches to control staphylococcal infections.

Keywords: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus); biofilm; biofilms; infection; quorum sensing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Environment*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Models, Genetic
  • Quorum Sensing / genetics
  • Quorum Sensing / physiology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology*