Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Bacteriology p. 2178–2189 June 2014 Volume 196 Number 12


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


Staphylococcus aureus is a prominent nosocomial pathogen and a major cause of biomaterial-associated infections. The success of S. aureus as a pathogen is due in part to its ability to adapt to stressful environments. As an example, the transition from residing in the nares to residing in the blood or deeper tissues is accompanied by changes in the availability of nutrients and elements such as oxygen and iron. As such, nutrients, oxygen, and iron are important determinants of virulence factor synthesis in S. aureus. In addition to influencing virulence factor synthesis, oxygen and iron are critical cofactors in enzymatic and electron transfer reactions; thus, a change in iron or oxygen availability alters the bacterial metabolome. Changes in metabolism create intracellular signals that alter the activity of metabolite-responsive regulators such as CodY, RpiRc, and CcpA. To assess the extent of metabolomic changes associated with oxygen and iron limitation, S. aureus cells were cultivated in iron-limited medium and/or with decreasing aeration, and the metabolomes were examined by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. As expected, oxygen and iron limitation dramatically decreased tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle activity, creating a metabolic block and significantly altering the metabolome. These changes were most prominent during post-exponential-phase growth, when TCA cycle activity was maximal. Importantly, many of the effects of iron limitation were obscured by aeration limitation. Aeration limitation not only obscured the metabolic effects of iron limitation but also overrode the transcription of iron-regulated genes. Finally, in contrast to previous speculation, we confirmed that acidification of the culture medium occurs independent of the availability of iron.