Many Gram-positive bacteria produce lipoteichoic acid (LTA) polymers whose physiological roles have remained a matter of debate because of the lack of LTA-deficient mutants. The ypfP gene responsible for biosynthesis of a glycolipid found in LTA was deleted in Staphylococcus aureus SA113, causing 87% reduction of the LTA content. Mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy revealed that the mutant LTA contained a diacylglycerol anchor instead of the glycolipid, whereas the remaining part was similar to the wild-type polymer except that it was shorter. The LTA mutant strain revealed no major changes in patterns of cell wall proteins or autolytic enzymes compared with the parental strain indicating that LTA may be less important in S. aureus protein attachment than previously thought. However, the autolytic activity of the mutant was strongly reduced demonstrating a role of LTA in controlling autolysin activity. Moreover, the hydrophobicity of the LTA mutant was altered and its ability to form biofilms on plastic was completely abrogated indicating a profound impact of LTA on physicochemical properties of bacterial surfaces. We propose to consider LTA and its biosynthetic enzymes as targets for new antibiofilm strategies.
I. Fedtke, Mader, D., Kohler, T., Moll, H., Nicholson, G., Dr. Raja Biswas, Henseler, K., Götz, F., Zähringer, U., and Peschel, A., “A Staphylococcus aureus ypfP mutant with strongly reduced lipoteichoic acid (LTA) content: LTA governs bacterial surface properties and autolysin activity”, Molecular Microbiology, vol. 65, pp. 1078–1091, 2007.