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Rotating wall vessel exposure alters protein secretion and global gene expression in Staphylococcus aureus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Helena Rosado, Alex J. O'Neill, Katy L. Blake, Meik Walther, Paul F. Long, Jason Hinds, Peter W. Taylor

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71 - 81
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal Of Astrobiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

King's Authors


Staphylococcus aureus is routinely recovered from air and surface samples taken aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and poses a health threat to crew. As bacteria respond to the low shear forces engendered by continuous rotation conditions in a Rotating Wall Vessel (RWV) and the reduced gravitational field of near-Earth flight by altering gene expression, we examined the effect of low-shear RWV growth on protein secretion and gene expression by three S. aureus isolates. When cultured under 1 g, the total amount of protein secreted by these strains varied up to fourfold; under continuous rotation conditions, protein secretion by all three strains was significantly reduced. Concentrations of individual proteins were differentially reduced and no evidence was found for increased lysis. These data suggest that growth under continuous rotation conditions reduces synthesis or secretion of proteins. A limited number of changes in gene expression under continuous rotation conditions were noted: in all isolates vraX, a gene encoding a polypeptide associated with cell wall stress, was down-regulated. A vraX deletion mutant of S. aureus SH1000 was constructed: no differences were found between SH1000 and Delta vraX with respect to colony phenotype, viability, protein export, antibiotic susceptibility, vancomycin kill kinetics, susceptibility to cold or heat and gene modulation. An ab initio protein-ligand docking simulation suggests a major binding site for beta-lactam drugs such as imipenem. If such changes to the bacterial phenotype occur during spaceflight, they will compromise the capacity of staphylococci to cause systemic infection and to circumvent antibacterial chemotherapy.

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