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Open Access Research article

Characterization of fatty acid modifying enzyme activity in staphylococcal mastitis isolates and other bacteria

Thea Lu1, Joo Youn Park4, Kelleen Parnell2, Larry K Fox3 and Mark A McGuire2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, USA

2 Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, USA

3 Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, Washington State University, Pullman, USA

4 Department of Basic Sciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:323  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-323

Published: 22 June 2012



Fatty acid modifying enzyme (FAME) has been shown to modify free fatty acids to alleviate their bactericidal effect by esterifying fatty acids to cholesterol or alcohols. Although it has been shown in previous studies that FAME is required for Staphylococcus aureus survival in skin abscesses, FAME is poorly studied compared to other virulence factors. FAME activity had also been detected in coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS). However, FAME activity was only surveyed after a bacterial culture was grown for 24 h. Therefore if FAME activity was earlier in the growth phase, it would not have been detected by the assay and those strains would have been labeled as FAME negative.


Fifty CNS bovine mastitis isolates and several S. aureus, Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus uberis strains were assayed for FAME activity over 24 h. FAME activity was detected in 54% of CNS and 80% S. aureus strains surveyed but none in E. coli or S. uberis. While some CNS strains produced FAME activity comparable to the lab strain of S. aureus, the pattern of FAME activity varied among strains and across species of staphylococci. All CNS that produced FAME activity also exhibited lipase activity. Lipase activity relative to colony forming units of these CNS decreased over the 24 h growth period. No relationship was observed between somatic cell count in the milk and FAME activity in CNS.


Some staphylococcal species surveyed produced FAME activity, but E. coli and S. uberis strains did not. All FAME producing CNS exhibited lipase activity which may indicate that both these enzymes work in concert to alter fatty acids in the bacterial environment.

Fatty acid modifying enzyme; Lipase; Coagulase-negative staphylococci