The biofilm mode of growth can lead to diversification of the bacterial population by promoting the emergence of variants. Here we report the identification and characterization of two major subpopulations of morphological variants arising in biofilms of S. aureus. One of these lacked pigmentation (termed white variants; WVs), whilst the other formed colonies on agar that were larger and paler than the parental strain (termed large pale variants; LPVs). WVs were unable to form biofilms, and exhibited increased proteolysis and haemolysis; all phenotypes attributable to loss-of-function mutations identified in the gene encoding the alternative sigma factor, sigB. For LPVs, no differences in biofilm forming capacity or proteolysis were observed compared with the parental strain. Genetic analysis of LPVs revealed that they had undergone mutation in the accessory gene regulator system (agrA), and deficiency in agr was confirmed by demonstrating loss of both colony spreading and haemolytic activity. The observation that S. aureus biofilms elaborate large subpopulations of sigB and agr mutants, both genotypes that have independently been shown to be of importance in staphylococcal disease, has implications for our understanding of staphylococcal infections involving a biofilm component. © 2013 Savage et al.
Savage, V. J., Chopra, I., & O’Neill, A. J. (2013). Population Diversification in Staphylococcus aureus Biofilms May Promote Dissemination and Persistence. PLoS ONE, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0062513