Biofilm production is an important step in the pathogenesis of Staphylococcus epidermidis polymer-associated infections and depends on the expression of the icaADBC operon leading to the synthesis of a polysaccharide intercellular adhesin. A chromosomally encoded reporter gene fusion between the ica promoter and the beta-galactosidase gene lacZ from Escherichia coli was constructed and used to investigate the influence of both environmental factors and subinhibitory concentrations of different antibiotics on ica expression in S. epidermidis. It was shown that S. epidermidis biofilm formation is induced by external stress (i.e., high temperature and osmolarity). Subinhibitory concentrations of tetracycline and the semisynthetic streptogramin antibiotic quinupristin-dalfopristin were found to enhance ica expression 9- to 11-fold, whereas penicillin, oxacillin, chloramphenicol, clindamycin, gentamicin, ofloxacin, vancomycin, and teicoplanin had no effect on ica expression. A weak (i.e., 2.5-fold) induction of ica expression was observed for subinhibitory concentrations of erythromycin. The results were confirmed by Northern blot analyses of ica transcription and quantitative analyses of biofilm formation in a colorimetric assay.
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