Staphylococcus caprae strains carry determinants known to be involved in pathogenicity: a gene encoding an autolysin-binding fibronectin and the ica operon involved in biofilm formation.


The atlC gene (1,485 bp), encoding an autolysin which binds fibronectin, and the ica operon, involved in biofilm formation, were isolated from the chromosome of an infectious isolate of Staphylococcus caprae and sequenced. AtlC (155 kDa) is similar to the staphylococcal autolysins Atl, AtlE, Aas (48 to 72% amino acid identity) and contains a putative signal peptide of 29 amino acids and two enzymatic centers (N-acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine amidase and endo-beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase) interconnected by three imperfect fibronectin-binding repeats. The glycine-tryptophan (GW) motif found in the central and end part of each repeat may serve for cell surface anchoring of AtlC as they do in Listeria monocytogenes. The S. caprae ica operon contains four genes closely related to S. epidermidis and S. aureus icaA, icaB, icaC, and icaD genes (> or = 68% similarity) and is preceded by a gene similar to icaR (> or =70% similarity). The polypeptides deduced from the S. caprae ica genes exhibit 67 to 88% amino acid identity to those of S. epidermidis and S. aureus ica genes. The ica operon and icaR gene were analyzed in 14 S. caprae strains from human specimens or goats' milk. Some of the strains produced biofilm, and others did not. All strains carry the ica operon and icaR of the same sizes and in the same relative positions, suggesting that the absence of biofilm formation is not related to the insertion of a mobile element such as an insertion sequence or a transposon.


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