Applied and environmental microbiology

Coagulase-negative Staphylococci favor conversion of arginine into ornithine despite a widespread genetic potential for nitric oxide synthase activity.

PMID 25281381


Within ecosystems that are poor in carbohydrates, alternative substrates such as arginine may be of importance to coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS). However, the versatility of arginine conversion in CNS remains largely uncharted. Therefore, a set of 86 strains belonging to 17 CNS species was screened for arginine deiminase (ADI), arginase, and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activities, in view of their ecological relevance. In fermented meats, for instance, ADI could improve bacterial competitiveness, whereas NOS may serve as an alternative nitrosomyoglobin generator to nitrate and nitrite curing. About 80% of the strains were able to convert arginine, but considerable inter- and intraspecies heterogeneity regarding the extent and mechanism of conversion was found. Overall, ADI was the most commonly employed pathway, resulting in mixtures of ornithine and small amounts of citrulline. Under aerobic conditions, which are more relevant for skin-associated CNS communities, several strains shifted toward arginase activity, leading to the production of ornithine and urea. The obtained data indeed suggest that arginase occurs relatively more in CNS isolates from a dairy environment, whereas ADI seems to be more abundant in strains from a fermented meat background. With some exceptions, a reasonable match between phenotypic ADI and arginase activity and the presence of the encoding genes (arcA and arg) was found. With respect to the NOS pathway, however, only one strain (Staphylococcus haemolyticus G110) displayed phenotypic NOS-like activity under aerobic conditions, despite a wide prevalence of the NOS-encoding gene (nos) among CNS. Hence, the group of CNS displays a strain- and condition-dependent toolbox of arginine-converting mechanisms with potential implications for competitiveness and functionality.