Fatty Acid Supplementation Reverses the Small Colony Variant Phenotype in Triclosan-Adapted Staphylococcus aureus: Genetic, Proteomic and Phenotypic Analyses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • Abdulrahman Bazaid
  • Sarah Forbes


Staphylococcus aureus can develop a small colony variant (SCV) phenotype in response to sub-lethal exposure to the biocide triclosan. In the current study, whole genome sequencing was performed and changes in virulence were investigated in five Staphylococcus aureus strains following repeated exposure to triclosan. Following exposure, 4/5 formed SCV and exhibited point mutations in the triclosan target gene fabI with 2/4 SCVs showing mutations in both fabI and fabD. The SCV phenotype was in all cases immediately reversed by nutritional supplementation with fatty acids or by repeated growth in the absence of triclosan, although fabI mutations persisted in 3/4 reverted SCVs. Virulence, determined using keratinocyte invasion and Galleria mellonella pathogenicity assays was significantly (p < 0.05) attenuated in 3/4 SCVs and in the non-SCV triclosan-adapted bacterium. Proteomic analysis revealed elevated FabI in 2/3 SCV and down-regulation in a protein associated with virulence in 1/3 SCV. In summary, attenuated keratinocyte invasion and larval virulence in triclosan-induced SCVs was associated with decreases in growth rate and virulence factor expression. Mutation occurred in fabI, which encodes the main triclosan target in all SCVs and the phenotype was reversed by fatty acid supplementation, demonstrating an association between fatty acid metabolism and triclosan-induced SCV.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date1 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018