Phenotypic Stability of Staphylococcus Aureus Small Colony Variants (SCV) Isolates from Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Patients.


Diagnostic and Research Center for Molecular BioMedicine, Medical University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria. [Email]


One of the most interesting features of Staphylococcus aureus is its ability to switch to a small colony variant (SCV). This switch allows the pathogen to survive periods of antibiotic treatment or pressure from the immune system of the host and further enables it to start the infection once again after the environmental stress declines. However, so far only little is known about this reversion back to the more virulent wild type phenotype. Therefore, this study aimed to analyze the frequency of reversion to the wild type phenotype of thymidine auxotroph S. aureus SCV isolates (TD-SCVs) obtained from patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). With the use of single cell starting cultures, the occurrence of the thymidine prototroph revertants was monitored. The underlying mutational cause of the SCVs and subsequent revertants were analyzed by sequencing the gene coding for thymidylate synthase (ThyA), whose mutations are known to produce thymidine auxotroph S. aureus SCV. In our study, the underlying mutational cause for the switch to the TD-SCV phenotype was primarily point mutations. Out of twelve isolates, seven isolates showed an occurrence of revertants with a frequency ranging from 90.06% to 0.16%. This high variability in the frequency of reversion to the wild type was not expected. However, this variability in the frequency of reversion may also be the key to successful re-infection of the host. Sometimes quick reversion to the wild type proves necessary for survival, whereas other times, staying hidden for a bit longer leads to success in re-colonization of the host.


cystic fibrosis,lungs infection,revertant,thyA,

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