Aminoglycoside inhibition of Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation is nutrient dependent

Michelle J. Henry-Stanley, Donavon J. Hess, Carol L. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Biofilms represent microbial communities, encased in a self-produced matrix or extracellular polymeric substance. Microbial biofilms are likely responsible for a large proportion of clinically significant infections and the multicellular nature of biofilm existence has been repeatedly associated with antibiotic resistance. Classical in vitro antibiotic-susceptibility testing utilizes artificial growth media and planktonic microbes, but this method may not account for the variability inherent in environments subject to biofilm growth in vivo. Experiments were designed to test the hypothesis that nutrient concentration can modulate the antibiotic susceptibility of Staphylococcus aureus biofilms. Developing S. aureus biofilms initiated on surgical sutures, and in selected experiments planktonic cultures, were incubated for 16 h in 66% tryptic soy broth, 0.2% glucose (1× TSBg), supplemented with bactericidal concentrations of gentamicin, streptomycin, ampicillin or vancomycin. In parallel experiments, antibiotics were added to growth medium diluted one-third (1/3× TSBg) or concentrated threefold (3× TSBg). Following incubation, viable bacteria were enumerated from planktonic cultures or suture sonicates, and biofilm biomass was assayed using spectrophotometry. Interestingly, bactericidal concentrations of gentamicin (5 μg gentamicin ml-1) and streptomycin (32 μg streptomycin ml-1) inhibited biofilm formation in samples incubated in 1/3× or 1× TSBg, but not in samples incubated in 3× TSBg. The nutrient dependence of aminoglycoside susceptibility is not only associated with biofilm formation, as planktonic cultures incubated in 3× TSBg in the presence of gentamicin also showed antibiotic resistance. These findings appeared specific for aminoglycosides because biofilm formation was inhibited in all three growth media supplemented with bactericidal concentrations of the cell wall-active antibiotics, ampicillin and vancomycin. Additional experiments showed that the ability of 3× TSBg to overcome the antibacterial effects of gentamicin was associated with decreased uptake of gentamicin by S. aureus. Uptake is known to be decreased at low pH, and the kinetic change in pH of growth medium from biofilms incubated in 5 μg gentamicin ml-1 in the presence of 3× TSBg was decreased when compared with pH determinations from biofilms formed in 1/3× or 1× TSBg. These studies underscore the importance of environmental factors, including nutrient concentration and pH, on the antibiotic susceptibility of S. aureus planktonic and biofilm bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-869
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of medical microbiology
Issue numberPART 6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Aminoglycoside inhibition of Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation is nutrient dependent'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this