Microb Genom. 2021 Jul;7(7). doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000598.
A key characteristic of Staphylococcus aureus infections, and one that also varies phenotypically between clones, is that of biofilm formation, which aids in bacterial persistence through increased adherence and immune evasion. Though there is a general understanding of the process of biofilm formation - adhesion, proliferation, maturation and dispersal - the tightly orchestrated molecular events behind each stage, and what drives variation between S. aureus strains, has yet to be unravelled. Herein we measure biofilm progression and dispersal in real-time across the five major S. aureus CDC-types (USA100-USA500) revealing adherence patterns that differ markedly amongst strains. To gain insight into this, we performed transcriptomic profiling on these isolates at multiple timepoints, compared to planktonically growing counterparts. Our findings support a model in which eDNA release, followed by increased positive surface charge, perhaps drives initial abiotic attachment. This is seemingly followed by cooperative repression of autolysis and activation of poly-N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) production, which may indicate a developmental shift in structuring the biofilm matrix. As biofilms mature, diminished translational capacity was apparent, with 53 % of all ribosomal proteins downregulated, followed by upregulation of anaerobic respiration enzymes. These findings are noteworthy because reduced cellular activity and an altered metabolic state have been previously shown to contribute to higher antibiotic tolerance and bacterial persistence. In sum, this work is, to our knowledge, the first study to investigate transcriptional regulation during the early, establishing phase of biofilm formation, and to compare global transcriptional regulation both temporally and across multiple clonal lineages.