Phenol-soluble modulins (PSMs) are responsible for regulating biofilm formation, persister cell formation, pmtR expression, host cell lysis, and anti-bacterial effects. To determine the effect of psm deletion on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, we investigated psm deletion mutants including Δpsmα, Δpsmβ, and Δpsmαβ;. These mutants exhibited increased β-lactam antibiotic resistance to ampicillin and oxacillin that was shown to be caused by increased Nacetylmannosamine kinase (nanK) mRNA expression, which regulates persister cell formation, leading to changes in the pattern of phospholipid fatty acids resulting in increased anteiso-C15:0, and increased membrane hydrophobicity with the deletion of PSMs. When synthetic PSMs were applied to Δpsmα and Δpsmβ mutants, treatment of Δpsmα with PSMα1-4 and Δpsmβ with PSMβ1-2 restored the sensitivity to oxacillin and slightly reduced the biofilm formation. Addition of a single fragment showed that α1, α2, α3, and β2 had an inhibiting effect on biofilms in Δpsmα; however, β1 showed an enhancing effect on biofilms in Δpsmβ. This study demonstrates a possible reason for the increased antibiotic resistance in psm mutants and the effect of PSMs on biofilm formation.
Keywords: MRSA; biofilm; fatty acid; persister cell; phenol-soluble modulins; β-lactam antibiotic.