Staphylococcus aureus

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A Microbial Biorealm page on the genus Staphylococcus aureus


Higher order taxa

Domain: Bacteria Kingdom: Bacteria Phylum: Firmicutes Class: Cocci Order: Bacillales Family: Staphylococcaceae Genus: Staphylococcus Species: Staphylococcus aureus


Staphylococcus aureus

NCBI: Taxonomy

Description and significance

Staphylococci are spherical gram-positive bacteria, which are immobile and form grape-like clusters. They form bunches because they divide in two planes as opposed to their close relatives streptococci which form chains because they divide only in one plane. Colonies formed by S. aureus are yellow (thus the name aureus, Latin for gold) and grow large on a rich medium. Staphylococcus aureus and their genus Staphylococci are facultative anaerobes which means they grow by aerobic respiration or fermentation that produces lactic acid.

As a pathogen, it is important to understand the virulence mechanisms of S. aureus especially the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in order to successfully combat the pathogen. The increasing population of "super germs" and antibiotic resistant pathogens have increased pressure on researchers to find alternative, more effective ways of fighting these "super germs." DNA sequencing of this microbe has already isolated the source code of its' resistance to antibiotics, and further research will more than likely lead us to the path of our next artillery against this and many other pathogens.

Genome structure

The ‘‘Staphylococcus aureus’’ genome, which is the most common species among the Staphylococcus genome projects, is the most completed genome sequences compared to any other microbial species. The original genome map of ‘‘Staphylococcus aureus’’ was based on the strain NCTC 8325, initiated by Peter A. Pattee and colleagues. By 2000, the entire genome of strain 8325 had been sequenced and annotated. Since then, at least six other ‘‘S. aureus’’ strains have been completed (COL, N315, Mu50, MW2, MRSA252, MSSA476).

The ‘‘Staphylococcus aureus’’ strain NCTC 8325 complete circular genome map shows ~2,900 open reading frames, 61 tRNA genes, 3 structural RNAs, and 5 complete ribosomal RNA operons. This strain has about 33% G+C content and an average gene length of 824 nucleotides with 85% coding sequence, similar to other ‘‘S. aureus’’ strains. Half the coding sequence is located predominantly on one replichore and the second half is located predominantly on the other replichore.

Virulence factors are encoded by phages, plasmids, pathogenicy islands and staphylococcus cassette chromosome. Increased resistance for antibiotics is encoded by a transposon (Tn 1546) that was inserted into a conjugated plasmid that also encoded resistance to other things including disinfectants. MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant ‘‘Staphylococcus aureus’’), which is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin, expresses a modified penicillin-binding protein encoded by mecA gene. This was brought about by many evolutions thought horizontal gene transfer of mecA to a wide variety of methicillin susceptible ‘‘S. aureus’’ strains. The genes for antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus are located on plasmids or other similar structures.

Diversification within the ‘‘S. aureus’’ population is achieved through a combination of mutation, recombination and horizontal gene transfer. Evolution of this bacterium can occur through asymptomatic colonization and/or during the course of the caused disease.

Cell structure and metabolism

‘‘Staphylococcus aureus’’ is a gram positive bacteria, which means that the cell wall of this bacteria consists of a very thick peptidoglycan layer. They form spherical colonies in clusters in 2 planes and have no flagella.

Secretions are numerous, but include surface associated adhesins, endotoxins, exoenzymes, capsular polysaccharide. The capsule is responsible for enhanced virulence of a mucoid strain.

The central routes of glucose metabolism are the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) pathway and the pentose phosphate cycle. Lactate is the end product of anaerobic glucose metabotlism and acetate and CO2 are the products of aerobic growth conditions. ‘‘S. aureus’’ can uptake a variety of nutrients including glucose, mannose, mannitol, glucosamine, N-acetylglucosamine, sucrose, lactose, glactose and beta-glucosides.


Describe any interactions with other organisms (included eukaryotes), contributions to the environment, effect on environment, etc.


How does this organism cause disease? Human, animal, plant hosts? Virulence factors, as well as patient symptoms.

Application to Biotechnology

Does this organism produce any useful compounds or enzymes? What are they and how are they used?

Current Research

Enter summaries of the most recent research here--at least three required


[Sample reference] Takai, K., Sugai, A., Itoh, T., and Horikoshi, K. "Palaeococcus ferrophilus gen. nov., sp. nov., a barophilic, hyperthermophilic archaeon from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent chimney". International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 2000. Volume 50. p. 489-500.

Edited by student of Rachel Larsen and Kit Pogliano