Butina K, Tomac A, Choong FX, Shirani H, Nilsson KPR, Löffler S, Richter-Dahlfors A
NPJ Biofilms Microbiomes 6 (1) 35 [2020-10-09; online 2020-10-09]
Methods for bacterial detection are needed to advance the infection research and diagnostics. Based on conformation-sensitive fluorescent tracer molecules, optotracing was recently established for dynamic detection and visualization of structural amyloids and polysaccharides in the biofilm matrix of gram-negative bacteria. Here, we extend the use of optotracing for detection of gram-positive bacteria, focussing on the clinically relevant opportunistic human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. We identify a donor-acceptor-donor-type optotracer, whose binding-induced fluorescence enables real-time detection, quantification, and visualization of S. aureus in monoculture and when mixed with gram-negative Salmonella Enteritidis. An algorithm-based automated high-throughput screen of 1920 S. aureus transposon mutants recognized the cell envelope as the binding target, which was corroborated by super-resolution microscopy of bacterial cells and spectroscopic analysis of purified cell wall components. The binding event was essentially governed by hydrophobic interactions, which permitted custom-designed tuning of the binding selectivity towards S. aureus versus Enterococcus faecalis by appropriate selection of buffer conditions. Collectively this work demonstrates optotracing as an enabling technology relevant for any field of basic and applied research, where visualization and detection of S. aureus is needed.