Influence of antibiotic pressure on bacterial bioluminescence, with emphasis on Staphylococcus aureus

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Bioluminescence imaging is used for longitudinal evaluation of bacteria in live animals. Clear relations exist between bacterial numbers and their bioluminescence. However, bioluminescence images of Staphylococcus aureus Xen29, S. aureus Xen36 and Escherichia coli Xen14 grown on tryptone soy agar in Etests demonstrated increased bioluminescence at sub-MICs of different antibiotics. This study aimed to further evaluate the influence of antibiotic pressure on bioluminescence in S. aureus Xen29. Bioluminescence of S. aureus Xen29, grown planktonically in tryptone soy broth, was quantified in the absence and presence of different concentrations of vancomycin, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin or chloramphenicol and was related to expression of the luxA gene under antibiotic pressure measured using real-time PCR. In the absence of antibiotics, staphylococcal bioluminescence increased over time until a maximum after ca. 6 h of growth, and subsequently decreased to the detection threshold after 24 h of growth owing to reduced bacterial metabolic activity. Up to MICs of the antibiotics, bioluminescence increased according to a similar pattern up to 6 h of growth, but after 24 h bioluminescence was higher than in the absence of antibiotics. Contrary to expectations, bioluminescence per organism (CFU) after different growth periods in the absence and at MICs of different antibiotics decreased with increasing expression of luxA. Summarising, antibiotic pressure impacts the relation between CFU and bioluminescence. Under antibiotic pressure, bioluminescence is not controlled by luxA expression but by co-factors impacting the bacterial metabolic activity. This conclusion is of utmost importance when evaluating antibiotic efficacy in live animals using bioluminescent bacterial strains.




Daghighi, S., Sjollema, J., Harapanahalli, A., Dijkstra, R. J. B., Van Der Mei, H. C., & Busscher, H. J. (2015). Influence of antibiotic pressure on bacterial bioluminescence, with emphasis on Staphylococcus aureus. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, 46(6), 713–717.

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