Magnesium links starvation-mediated antibiotic persistence to ATP

Tao Xu, Xuyang Wang, Lu Meng, Mengqi Zhu, Jing Wu, Yuanyuan Xu, Ying Zhang, Wenhong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacterial persisters emerge and increase in numbers over time as a bacterial culture grows from log phase to stationary phase. However, the underlying basis of the inevitable tendency is unclear. In this study, we investigated the role of nutrients in starvation-mediated persister formation of Staphylococcus aureus. By screening of nutrient components, we found that starvation-induced persister formation of log-phase cultures could be reversed by addition of magnesium (Mg2+) but not amino acids, nucleotides, or other salts. Further, deprivation of extracellular Mg2+ reduced cytoplasmic ATP, inducing persistence without affecting cytoplasmic Mg2+ or membrane potential. Finally, we showed that Mg2+ reduced expression of stationary cell marker genes, cap5A and arcA. These findings indicate a connection between Mg2+ levels and ATP, which represents metabolic status and mediates antibiotic persistence during growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00862
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • ATP
  • Antibiotic persistence
  • Magnesium
  • Staphylococcus aureus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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