Carotenoids are used as regulators for membrane fluidity by Staphylococcus xylosus.

Waldemar Seel, Denise Baust, Dominik Sons, Maren Albers, Lara Etzbach, Janina Fuss, André Lipski
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Scientific Reports
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Carotenoids are associated with several important biological functions as antenna pigments in photosynthesis or protectives against oxidative stress. Occasionally they were also discussed as part of the cold adaptation mechanism of bacteria. For two Staphylococcus xylosus strains we demonstrated an increased content of staphyloxanthin and other carotenoids after growth at 10 °C but no detectable carotenoids after grow at 30 °C. By in vivo measurements of generalized polarization and anisotropy with two different probes Laurdan and TMA-DPH we detected a strong increase in membrane order with a simultaneous increase in membrane fluidity at low temperatures accompanied by a broadening of the phase transition. Increased carotenoid concentration was also correlated with an increased resistance of the cells against freeze-thaw stress. In addition, the fatty acid profile showed a moderate adaptation to low temperature by increasing the portion of anteiso-branched fatty acids. The suppression of carotenoid synthesis abolished the effects observed and thus confirmed the causative function of the carotenoids in the modulation of membrane parameters. A differential transcriptome analysis demonstrated the upregulation of genes involved in carotenoid syntheses under low temperature growth conditions. The presented data suggests that upregulated synthesis of carotenoids is a constitutive component in the cold adaptation strategy of Staphylococcus xylosus and combined with modifications of the fatty acid profile constitute the adaptation to grow under low temperature conditions.