• Staphylococcus epidermidis;
  • biofilms;
  • spx;
  • ClpP protease


Infections caused by the leading nosocomial pathogen Staphylococcus epidermidis are characterized by biofilm formation on implanted medical devices. In a previous study, we found that ClpP protease plays an essential role in biofilm formation of S. epidermidis. However, the mechanism by which ClpP impacts S. epidermidis biofilms has remained unknown. Here, we show that the Spx protein accumulates in the clpP mutant strain of S. epidermidis and controls biofilm formation of S. epidermidis via a pronounced effect on the transcription of the icaADBC operon coding for the production of the biofilm exopolysaccharide polysaccharide intercellular adhesion (PIA). Notably, in contrast to Staphylococcus aureus, Spx controls PIA expression via an icaR-independent mechanism. Furthermore, Spx affected primary surface attachment, although not by regulating the production of the autolysin AtlE. Our results indicate that ClpP enhances the formation of S. epidermidis biofilms by degrading Spx, a negative regulator of biofilm formation.