Sticking together: Independent evolution of biofilm formation in different species of staphylococci has occurred multiple times via different pathways

Lisa Crossman, Leanne Sims, Rachael Dean, Heather Felgate, Teresa Díaz Calvo, Claire Hill, Iain R. McNamara, Mark A. Webber, John Wain

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Various species of staphylococci cause a wide range of infections, including implant-associated infections which are often difficult to treat due to the presence of biofilms. Whilst some proteins involved in biofilm formation are known, the differences in biofilm production between staphylococcal species remains understudied. Currently biofilm formation by Staphylococcus aureus is better understood than for other members of the genus as more research effort has focused on this species.

We assembled a panel of 385 non-aureus Staphylococcus isolates of 19 species from prosthetic joint infection as well as other clinical sources and reference strains. We assessed the biofilm forming ability of all strains using a high-throughput crystal violet assay. This identified distinct biofilm formation categories and we then compared the prevalence of Pfam domains and identified those which distinguished the categories as well as using machine learning to identify amino acid 20-mers linked to biofilm formation.

This identified some domains within proteins already positively linked to biofilm formation but we also identified important domains not previously linked to biofilm formation. RT-qPCR confirmed the expression of selected genes predicted to encode important domains within biofilms in Staphylococcus epidermidis.

The prevalence and distribution of biofilm associated domains showed a link to phylogeny, suggesting different Staphylococcus species have independently evolved different mechanisms of biofilm production.

This work has identified different routes to biofilm formation in diverse species of Staphylococcus as well as suggesting independent evolution of biofilm has occurred multiple times across the genus. Understanding the mechanisms of biofilm formation in any given species is likely to require detailed study of relevant strains and the ability to generalise across the genus may be limited.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2024

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