Strengthening of enterococcal biofilms by Esp.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


PLoS Pathog, Volume 18, Issue 9, p.e1010829 (2022)


Bacterial Proteins, Biofilms, Enterococcus, Enterococcus faecalis, Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections, Humans, Membrane Proteins, Peptide Hydrolases


<p>Multidrug-resistant (MDR) Enterococcus faecalis are major causes of hospital-acquired infections. Numerous clinical strains of E. faecalis harbor a large pathogenicity island that encodes enterococcal surface protein (Esp), which is suggested to promote biofilm production and virulence, but this remains controversial. To resolve this issue, we characterized the Esp N-terminal region, the portion implicated in biofilm production. Small angle X-ray scattering indicated that the N-terminal region had a globular head, which consisted of two DEv-Ig domains as visualized by X-ray crystallography, followed by an extended tail. The N-terminal region was not required for biofilm production but instead significantly strengthened biofilms against mechanical or degradative disruption, greatly increasing retention of Enterococcus within biofilms. Biofilm strengthening required low pH, which resulted in Esp unfolding, aggregating, and forming amyloid-like structures. The pH threshold for biofilm strengthening depended on protein stability. A truncated fragment of the first DEv-Ig domain, plausibly generated by a host protease, was the least stable and sufficient to strengthen biofilms at pH &le; 5.0, while the entire N-terminal region and intact Esp on the enterococcal surface was more stable and required a pH &le; 4.3. These results suggested a virulence role of Esp in strengthening enterococcal biofilms in acidic abiotic or host environments.</p>