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The Intercellular Adhesion (ica) Locus Is Present in Staphylococcus aureus and Is Required for Biofilm Formation

  • Sarah E. Cramton
  • Christiane Gerke
  • Norbert F. Schnell
  • Wright W. Nichols
  • Friedrich Götz
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
Oct 01, 1999
  • Medicine


Nosocomial infections that result in the formation of biofilms on the surfaces of biomedical implants are a leading cause of sepsis and are often associated with colonization of the implants by Staphylococcus epidermidis. Biofilm formation is thought to require two sequential steps: adhesion of cells to a solid substrate followed by cell-cell adhesion, creating multiple layers of cells. Intercellular adhesion requires the polysaccharide intercellular adhesin (PIA), which is composed of linear β-1,6-linked glucosaminylglycans and can be synthesized in vitro from UDP-N-acetylglucosamine by products of the intercellular adhesion (ica) locus. We have investigated a variety of Staphylococcus aureus strains and find that all strains tested contain the ica locus and that several can form biofilms in vitro. Sequence comparison with the S. epidermidis ica genes revealed 59 to 78% amino acid identity. Deletion of the ica locus results in a loss of the ability to form biofilms, produce PIA, or mediate N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase activity in vitro. Cross-species hybridization experiments revealed the presence of icaA in several other Staphylococcus species, suggesting that cell-cell adhesion and the potential to form biofilms is conserved within this genus.

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