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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences



Persister cells comprise a phenotypic variant that shows extreme antibiotic tolerance resulting in treatment failures of bacterial infections. While this phenomenon has posed a great threat in public health, mechanisms underlying their formation in Staphylococcus aureus remain largely unknown. Increasing evidences of the presence of persister cells in recalcitrant infections underscores the great urgency to unravel the mechanism by which these cells develop. Previously, we characterized msaABCR operon that plays roles in regulation of virulence, biofilm development and antibiotic resistance. We also characterized the function of MsaB protein and showed that MsaB is a putative transcription factor that binds target DNA in response to nutrients availability.


In this study, we compared the number of persister cell in wild type, msaABCR deletion mutant and the complemented strain in two backgrounds USA300 LAC and Mu50. Herein, we report that msaABCR deletion mutant forms significantly less number of persister cells relative to wild type after challenge with various antibiotics in planktonic and biofilm growth conditions. Complementation of the msaABCR operon restored wild type phenotype. Combined antibiotic therapy along with msaABCR deletion significantly improves the killing kinetics of stationary phase and biofilm S. aureus cells. Transcriptomics analysis showed that msaABCR regulates several metabolic genes, transcription factors, transporters and enzymes that may play role in persister cells formation, which we seek to define in the future.


This study presented a new regulator, msaABCR operon, that is involved in the persister cells formation, which is a poorly understood in S. aureus. Indeed, we showed that msaABCR deletion significantly reduces the persister cells formation in all growth phases tested. Although, we have not yet defined the mechanism, we have shown that msaABCR regulates several metabolic, transporters, and extracellular proteases genes that have been previously linked with persister cells formation in other bacterial systems. Taken together, this study showed that inactivation of the msaABCR operon enhances the effectiveness of antibiotics for the treatment of S. aureus infections, especially in context of persister cells.


Published by BMC Microbiology at 10.1186/s12866-017-1129-9

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BMC Microbiology





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