On January 26, 2023, Allison Lopatkin, assistant professor of biological sciences, published new research in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, alongside colleagues, titled “Disturbing the Spatial Organization of Biofilm Communities Affects Expression of agr-Regulated Virulence Factors in Staphylococcus aureus.” The research examines how, in natural environments, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria encounter forces that may alter their spatial structure, which can affect quorum sensing, nutrient acquisition, and the expression of agr-regulated virulence factors. The researchers used physical force to periodically disturb biofilms composed of Staphylococcus aureus to demonstrate these effects.
The study revealed that disturbances in nutrient-poor environments increased the expression of coa, fnbpA, lukS, and splA, and disturbances in a nutrient-rich environment at low or high disturbance amplitudes moderately reduced expression of coa and fnbpA but increased expression of lukS and splA. At an intermediate amplitude, however, the overall expression of agr-regulated virulence factors was the lowest; expression of lukS and splA remained unchanged relative to an undisturbed biofilm, while expression of coa and fnbpA significantly decreased. The researchers also discuss how the study’s findings may allow the identification of environments that increase or reduce the expression of virulence factors in Staphylococcus aureus.