Bone regeneration following the treatment of Staphylococcal bone infection or osteomyelitis is challenging due to the ability of Staphylococcus aureus to invade and persist within bone cells, which could possibly lead to antimicrobial tolerance and incessant bone destruction.
Here, we investigated the influence of Staphylococcal bone infection on osteoblasts metabolism and function, with the underlying goal of determining whether Staphylococcus aureus-infected osteoblasts retain their ability to produce extracellular mineralized organic matrix after antibiotic treatment.
Using our in vitro infection model, human osteoblasts-like Saos-2 cells were infected with high-grade Staphylococcus aureus EDCC 5055 strain, and then treated with 8 µg/ml rifampicin and osteogenic stimulators up to 21-days.
Immunofluorescence and transmission electron microscopic (TEM) imaging demonstrated the presence of intracellular bacteria within the infected osteoblasts as early as 2 hours post-infection. TEM micrographs revealed intact intracellular bacteria with dividing septa indicative of active replication. The infected osteoblasts showed significant amounts of intracellular bacteria colonies and alteration in metabolic activity compared to the uninfected osteoblasts (p≤0.001). Treatment of S. aureus-infected osteoblasts with a single dose of 8 µg/ml rifampicin sufficiently restored the metabolic activity comparative to the uninfected groups. Alizarin red staining and quantification of the rifampicin-treated infected osteoblasts revealed significantly lower amount of mineralized extracellular matrix after 7-days osteogenesis (p<0.05). Interestingly, prolonged osteogenic stimulation and rifampicin-treatment up to 21 days improved the extracellular matrix mineralization level comparable to the rifampicin-treated uninfected group. However, the untreated (native) osteoblasts showed significantly more quantity of mineral deposits (p≤0.001). Ultrastructural analysis of the rifampicin-treated infected osteoblasts at 21-days osteogenesis revealed active osteoblasts and newly differentiated osteocytes, with densely distributed calcium crystal deposits within the extracellular organic matrix. Moreover, residual colony of dead bacteria bodies and empty vacuoles of the fully degraded bacteria embedded within the mineralized extracellular matrix. Gene expression level of prominent bone formation markers, namely RUNX2, COL1A1, ALPL, BMP-2, SPARC, BGLAP, OPG/RANKL showed no significant difference between the infected and uninfected osteoblast at 21-days of osteogenesis.
Staphylococcus aureus bone infection can drastically impair osteoblasts metabolism and function. However, treatment with potent intracellular penetrating antibiotics, namely rifampicin restored the metabolic and bone formation activity of surviving osteoblasts. Delay in early osteogenesis caused by the bacterial infection was significantly improved over time after successful intracellular bacteria eradication.