Role of adhesion forces in mechanosensitive channel gating inStaphylococcus aureusadhering to surfaces

Vera Carniello, Brandon W. Peterson*, Henny C. van der Mei, Henk J. Busscher

*Corresponding author for this work

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Mechanosensitive channels in bacterial membranes open or close in response to environmental changes to allow transmembrane transport, including antibiotic uptake and solute efflux. In this paper, we hypothesize that gating of mechanosensitive channels is stimulated by forces through which bacteria adhere to surfaces. Hereto, channel gating is related with adhesion forces to different surfaces of a Staphylococcus aureus strain and its isogenic ΔmscL mutant, deficient in MscL (large) channel gating. Staphylococci becoming fluorescent due to uptake of calcein, increased with adhesion force and were higher in the parent strain (66% when adhering with an adhesion force above 4.0 nN) than in the ΔmscL mutant (40% above 1.2 nN). This suggests that MscL channels open at a higher critical adhesion force than at which physically different, MscS (small) channels open and contribute to transmembrane transport. Uptake of the antibiotic dihydrostreptomycin was monitored by staphylococcal killing. The parent strain exposed to dihydrostreptomycin yielded a CFU reduction of 2.3 log-units when adhering with an adhesion force above 3.5 nN, but CFU reduction remained low (1.0 log-unit) in the mutant, independent of adhesion force. This confirms that large channels open at a higher critical adhesion-force than small channels, as also concluded from calcein transmembrane transport. Collectively, these observations support our hypothesis that adhesion forces to surfaces play an important role, next to other established driving forces, in staphylococcal channel gating. This provides an interesting extension of our understanding of transmembrane antibiotic uptake and solute efflux in infectious staphylococcal biofilms in which bacteria experience adhesion forces from a wide variety of surfaces, like those of other bacteria, tissue cells, or implanted biomaterials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Number of pages8
JournalNPJ biofilms and microbiomes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21-Aug-2020



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