There is extensive debate about how 2D nanomaterials such as graphene oxide (GO) affect bacteria. Various effects of GO are proposed, including bacterial growth inhibition or enhancement, killing, and no activity. Herein, we report that GO protects Staphylococcus aureus bacterial cells from death in starvation conditions with up to a 1000-fold improvement in cell viability. Transcriptomic profiling reveals that bacterial cells in starvation conditions generally shut down metabolic activity, while only cells incubated with GO increase production of specific enzymes involved in the glyoxalase detoxification pathway along with repressed autolysis. The oxygen-containing functional groups of GO resemble the molecular structure of methylglyoxal, which bacteria produce to adapt to nutrient imbalances and is detoxified by glyoxalase enzymes. The ability of GO to enable bacterial cell survival in starvation conditions and accompanying cellular responses support that bacterial cells perceive GO as a methylglyoxal-mimicking nanomaterial cue to reshuffle cellular metabolism and defenses.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
J.A.J. and B.K.Y. contributed equally to this work. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Singapore through a Competitive Research Programme grant (NRF‐CRP10‐2012‐07) and a Proof‐of‐Concept grant (NRF2015NRF‐POC0001‐19), the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korean Government (MSIT) (No. 2020R1C1C1004385), and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports grant LL2002 under the ERC CZ program. In addition, this work was supported by the Brain Pool Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (2019H1D3A1A01070318). Further support was provided by the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering, whose research is supported by the National Research Foundation Singapore, Ministry of Education, Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore, under its Research Centre of Excellence Programme. Schematic illustrations were created with BioRender.com under an academic lab subscription.
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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics