A novel metabolomic approach used for the comparison of Staphylococcus aureus planktonic cells and biofilm samples

Laurence H. Stipetic, Matthew J. Dalby, Robert L. Davies, Fraser R. Morton, Gordon Ramage, Karl E.V. Burgess*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Bacterial cell characteristics change significantly during differentiation between planktonic and biofilm states. While established methods exist to detect and identify transcriptional and proteomic changes, metabolic fluctuations that distinguish these developmental stages have been less amenable to investigation. Objectives: The objectives of the study were to develop a robust reproducible sample preparation methodology for high throughput biofilm analysis and to determine differences between Staphylococcus aureus in planktonic and biofilm states. Methods: The method uses bead beating in a chloroform/methanol/water extraction solvent to both disrupt cells and quench metabolism. Verification of the method was performed using liquid-chromatography-mass spectrometry. Raw mass-spectrometry data was analysed using an in-house bioinformatics pipe-line incorporating XCMS, MzMatch and in-house R-scripts, with identifications matched to internal standards and metabolite data-base entries. Results: We have demonstrated a novel mechanical bead beating method that has been optimised for the extraction of the metabolome from cells of a clinical Staphylococcus aureus strain existing in a planktonic or biofilm state. This high-throughput method is fast and reproducible, allowing for direct comparison between different bacterial growth states. Significant changes in arginine biosynthesis were identified between the two cell populations. Conclusions: The method described herein represents a valuable tool in studying microbial biochemistry at a molecular level. While the methodology is generally applicable to the lysis and extraction of metabolites from Gram positive bacteria, it is particularly applicable to biofilms. Bacteria that exist as a biofilm are shown to be highly distinct metabolically from their ‘free living’ counterparts, thus highlighting the need to study microbes in different growth states. Metabolomics can successfully distinguish between a planktonic and biofilm growth state. Importantly, this study design, incorporating metabolomics, could be optimised for studying the effects of antimicrobials and drug modes of action, potentially providing explanations and mechanisms of antibiotic resistance and to help devise new antimicrobials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number75
Issue number4
Early online date8 Mar 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Mar 2016


  • biofilms
  • metabolite extraction
  • metabolomics
  • S. aureus


Dive into the research topics of 'A novel metabolomic approach used for the comparison of Staphylococcus aureus planktonic cells and biofilm samples'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this