Genetic and Biochemical Analysis of CodY-Mediated Cell Aggregation in Staphylococcus aureus Reveals an Interaction between Extracellular DNA and Polysaccharide in the Extracellular Matrix

J Bacteriol. 2020 Mar 26;202(8):e00593-19. doi: 10.1128/JB.00593-19. Print 2020 Mar 26.


The global regulator CodY links nutrient availability to the regulation of virulence factor gene expression in Staphylococcus aureus, including many genes whose products affect biofilm formation. Antithetical phenotypes of both biofilm deficiency and accumulation have been reported for codY-null mutants; thus, the role of CodY in biofilm development remains unclear. codY mutant cells of a strain producing a robust biofilm elaborate proaggregation surface-associated features not present on codY mutant cells that do not produce a robust biofilm. Biochemical analysis of the clinical isolate SA564, which aggregates when deficient for CodY, revealed that these features are sensitive to nuclease treatment and are resistant to protease exposure. Genetic analyses revealed that disrupting lgt (the diacylglycerol transferase gene) in codY mutant cells severely weakened aggregation, indicating a role for lipoproteins in the attachment of the biofilm matrix to the cell surface. An additional and critical role of IcaB in producing functional poly-N-acetylglucosamine (PIA) polysaccharide in extracellular DNA (eDNA)-dependent biofilm formation was shown. Moreover, overproducing PIA is sufficient to promote aggregation in a DNA-dependent manner regardless of source of nucleic acids. Taken together, our results point to PIA synthesis as the primary determinant of biofilm formation when CodY activity is reduced and suggest a modified electrostatic net model for matrix attachment whereby PIA associates with eDNA, which interacts with the cell surface via covalently attached membrane lipoproteins. This work counters the prevailing view that polysaccharide- and eDNA/protein-based biofilms are mutually exclusive. Rather, we demonstrate that eDNA and PIA can work synergistically to form a biofilm.IMPORTANCEStaphylococcus aureus remains a global health concern and exemplifies the ability of an opportunistic pathogen to adapt and persist within multiple environments, including host tissue. Not only does biofilm contribute to persistence and immune evasion in the host environment, it also may aid in the transition to invasive disease. Thus, understanding how biofilms form is critical for developing strategies for dispersing biofilms and improving biofilm disease-related outcomes. Using biochemical, genetic, and cell biology approaches, we reveal a synergistic interaction between PIA and eDNA that promotes cell aggregation and biofilm formation in a CodY-dependent manner in S. aureus We also reveal that envelope-associated lipoproteins mediate attachment of the biofilm matrix to the cell surface.

Keywords: CodY; PIA; Staphylococcus aureus; biofilm; eDNA; exopolysaccharide; lipoproteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biofilms*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix / genetics
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / genetics
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • CodY protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Repressor Proteins
  • polysaccharide intercellular adhesin