Factors affecting variability in time between addition of nutrient germinants and rapid dipicolinic acid release during germination of spores of Bacillus species.
ABSTRACT: The simultaneous nutrient germination of hundreds of individual wild-type spores of three Bacillus species and a number of Bacillus subtilis strains has been measured by two new methods, and rates of release of the great majority of the large pool of dipicolinic acid (DPA) from individual spores of B. subtilis strains has been measured by Raman spectroscopy with laser tweezers. The results from these analyses and published data have allowed a number of significant conclusions about the germination of spores of Bacillus species as follows. (i) The time needed for release of the great majority of a Bacillus spore's DPA once rapid DPA release had begun (DeltaT(release)) during nutrient germination was independent of the concentration of nutrient germinant used, the level of the germinant receptors (GRs) that recognize nutrient germinants used and heat activation prior to germination. Values for DeltaT(release) were generally 0.5 to 3 min at 25 to 37 degrees C for individual wild-type spores. (ii) Despite the conclusion above, germination of individual spores in populations was very heterogeneous, with some spores in wild-type populations completing germination > or = 15-fold slower than others. (iii) The major factor in the heterogeneity in germination of individual spores in populations was the highly variable lag time, T(lag), between mixing spores with nutrient germinants and the beginning of DeltaT(release). (iv) A number of factors decrease spores' T(lag) values including heat activation, increased levels of GRs/spore, and higher levels of nutrient germinants. These latter factors appear to affect the level of activated GRs/spore during nutrient germination. (v) The conclusions above lead to the simple prediction that a major factor causing heterogeneity in Bacillus spore germination is the number of functional GRs in individual spores, a number that presumably varies significantly between spores in populations.
Project description:When exposed to nutrient or nonnutrient germinants, individual Bacillus spores can return to life through germination followed by outgrowth. Laser tweezers, Raman spectroscopy, and either differential interference contrast or phase-contrast microscopy were used to analyze the slow dipicolinic acid (DPA) leakage (normally ?20% of spore DPA) from individual spores that takes place prior to the lag time, Tlag, when spores begin rapid release of remaining DPA. Major conclusions from this work with Bacillus subtilis spores were as follows: (i) slow DPA leakage from wild-type spores germinating with nutrients did not begin immediately after nutrient exposure but only at a later heterogeneous time T1; (ii) the period of slow DPA leakage (?Tleakage = Tlag - T1) was heterogeneous among individual spores, although the amount of DPA released in this period was relatively constant; (iii) increases in germination temperature significantly decreased T1 times but increased values of ?Tleakage; (iv) upon germination with l-valine for 10 min followed by addition of d-alanine to block further germination, all germinated spores had T1 times of less than 10 min, suggesting that T1 is the time when spores become committed to germinate; (v) elevated levels of SpoVA proteins involved in DPA movement in spore germination decreased T1 and Tlag times but not the amount of DPA released in ?Tleakage; (vi) lack of the cortex-lytic enzyme CwlJ increased DPA leakage during germination due to longer ?Tleakage times in which more DPA was released; and (vii) there was slow DPA leakage early in germination of B. subtilis spores by the nonnutrients CaDPA and dodecylamine and in nutrient germination of Bacillus cereus and Bacillus megaterium spores. Overall, these findings have identified and characterized a new early event in Bacillus spore germination.
Project description:Rates of commitment to germinate and germination of Bacillus subtilis spores with mixtures of low concentrations of germinants acting on different germinant receptors (GRs) were much higher than the sums of the rates of commitment and germination with individual germinants alone. This synergism with mixtures of nutrient germinants was not seen with spores lacking GRs responsible for recognizing one or several components of the germinant mixtures and was not eliminated by either a gerD mutation or overexpression of one of the GRs involved in this synergism. This synergism was also not seen between the germinant L-valine, which acts via a GR, and the germinant dodecylamine, which does not act via any GR. These results indicate that spores not only integrate but can also amplify signals from multiple germinants and multiple GRs in determining rates of commitment and overall spore germination. This amplification can be explained by a simple mechanism in which a single signal integrator triggers germination above an accumulation threshold. Direct cooperative action between GRs may further add to the synergism seen in germination triggered by multiple GRs. Further experiments and modeling are required to determine the relative contributions of these different mechanisms.
Project description:The Bacillus subtilis spoVAEa and spoVAF genes are expressed in developing spores as members of the spoVA operon, which encodes proteins essential for the uptake and release of dipicolinic acid (DPA) during spore formation and germination. SpoVAF is likely an integral inner spore membrane protein and exhibits sequence identity to A subunits of the spore's nutrient germinant receptors (GRs), while SpoVAEa is a soluble protein with no obvious signals to allow its passage across a membrane. However, like SpoVAD, SpoVAEa is present on the outer surface of the spore's inner membrane, as SpoVAEa was accessible to an external biotinylation agent in spores and SpoVAEa disappeared in parallel with SpoVAD during proteinase K treatment of germinated spores. SpoVAEa and SpoVAD were also distributed similarly in fractions of disrupted dormant spores. Unlike spoVAD, spoVAEa is absent from the genomes of some spore-forming members of the Bacillales and Clostridiales orders, although SpoVAEa's amino acid sequence is conserved in species containing spoVAEa. B. subtilis strains lacking SpoVAF or SpoVAEa and SpoVAF sporulated normally, and the spores had normal DPA levels. Spores lacking SpoVAF or SpoVAEa and SpoVAF also germinated normally with non-GR-dependent germinants but more slowly than wild-type spores with GR-dependent germinants, and this germination defect was complemented by ectopic expression of the missing proteins.
Project description:<h4>Unlabelled</h4>Bacterial spores, despite being metabolically dormant, possess the remarkable capacity to detect nutrients and other molecules in their environment through a biochemical sensory apparatus that can trigger spore germination, allowing the return to vegetative growth within minutes of exposure of germinants. We demonstrate here that bacterial spores of multiple species retain memory of transient exposures to germinant stimuli that can result in altered responses to subsequent exposure. The magnitude and decay of these memory effects depend on the pulse duration as well as on the separation time, incubation temperature, and pH values between the pulses. Spores of Bacillus species germinate in response to nutrients that interact with germinant receptors (GRs) in the spore's inner membrane, with different nutrient types acting on different receptors. In our experiments, B. subtilis spores display memory when the first and second germinant pulses target different receptors, suggesting that some components of spore memory are downstream of GRs. Furthermore, nonnutrient germinants, which do not require GRs, exhibit memory either alone or in combination with nutrient germinants, and memory of nonnutrient stimulation is found to be more persistent than that induced by GR-dependent stimuli. Spores of B. cereus and Clostridium difficile also exhibit germination memory, suggesting that memory may be a general property of bacterial spores. These observations along with experiments involving strains with mutations in various germination proteins suggest a model in which memory is stored primarily in the metastable states of SpoVA proteins, which comprise a channel for release of dipicolinic acid, a major early event in spore germination.<h4>Importance</h4>Cellular memory is defined as a sustained response to a transient environmental stimulus, and yet its generation and storage have not been described in bacterial spores. We demonstrate here that bacterial spores of multiple species retain memory of transient exposures to germinant stimuli that can result in altered responses to subsequent exposure. Memory was induced by activation of germinant receptors (GRs) or by GR-independent germinants and was accessed by both GR-dependent and GR-independent germinants. Analysis of effects on memory of exposure to GR-dependent and GR-independent germinants as well as in spores lacking various germination proteins suggests a model in which memory is stored primarily in metastable states of SpoVA proteins which comprise a channel for release of spore dipicolinic acid. Spore memory can also significantly reduce the concentration of nutrient germinants necessary to trigger germination, and this may be used to respond to low levels of nutrient germinants.
Project description:Spore germination of 17 Bacillus cereus food isolates and reference strains was evaluated using flow cytometry analysis in combination with fluorescent staining at a single-spore level. This approach allowed for rapid collection of germination data under more than 20 conditions, including heat activation of spores, germination in complex media (brain heart infusion [BHI] and tryptone soy broth [TSB]), and exposure to saturating concentrations of single amino acids and the combination of alanine and inosine. Whole-genome sequence comparison revealed a total of 11 clusters of operons encoding germinant receptors (GRs): GerK, GerI, and GerL were present in all strains, whereas GerR, GerS, GerG, GerQ, GerX, GerF, GerW, and GerZ (sub)clusters showed a more diverse presence/absence in different strains. The spores of tested strains displayed high diversity with regard to their sensitivity and responsiveness to selected germinants and heat activation. The two laboratory strains, B. cereus ATCC 14579 and ATCC 10987, and 11 food isolates showed a good germination response under a range of conditions, whereas four other strains (B. cereus B4085, B4086, B4116, and B4153) belonging to phylogenetic group IIIA showed a very weak germination response even in BHI and TSB media. Germination responses could not be linked to specific (combinations of) GRs, but it was noted that the four group IIIA strains contained pseudogenes or variants of subunit C in their gerL cluster. Additionally, two of those strains (B4086 and B4153) carried pseudogenes in the gerK and gerRI (sub)clusters that possibly affected the functionality of these GRs. IMPORTANCE:Germination of bacterial spores is a critical step before vegetative growth can resume. Food products may contain nutrient germinants that trigger germination and outgrowth of Bacillus species spores, possibly leading to food spoilage or foodborne illness. Prediction of spore germination behavior is, however, very challenging, especially for spores of natural isolates that tend to show more diverse germination responses than laboratory strains. The approach used has provided information on the genetic diversity in GRs and corresponding subclusters encoded by B. cereus strains, as well as their germination behavior and possible associations with GRs, and it provides a basis for further extension of knowledge on the role of GRs in B. cereus (group member) ecology and transmission to the host.
Project description:High-level heat resistance of spores of Bacillus thermoamylovorans poses challenges to the food industry, as industrial sterilization processes may not inactivate such spores, resulting in food spoilage upon germination and outgrowth. In this study, the germination and heat resistance properties of spores of four food-spoiling isolates were determined. Flow cytometry counts of spores were much higher than their counts on rich medium (maximum, 5%). Microscopic analysis revealed inefficient nutrient-induced germination of spores of all four isolates despite the presence of most known germination-related genes, including two operons encoding nutrient germinant receptors (GRs), in their genomes. In contrast, exposure to nonnutrient germinant calcium-dipicolinic acid (Ca-DPA) resulted in efficient (50 to 98%) spore germination. All four strains harbored cwlJ and gerQ genes, which are known to be essential for Ca-DPA-induced germination in Bacillus subtilis. When determining spore survival upon heating, low viable counts can be due to spore inactivation and an inability to germinate. To dissect these two phenomena, the recoveries of spores upon heat treatment were determined on plates with and without preexposure to Ca-DPA. The high-level heat resistance of spores as observed in this study (D120°C, 1.9 ± 0.2 and 1.3 ± 0.1 min; z value, 12.2 ± 1.8°C) is in line with survival of sterilization processes in the food industry. The recovery of B. thermoamylovorans spores can be improved via nonnutrient germination, thereby avoiding gross underestimation of their levels in food ingredients.
Project description:Bacillus and Clostridium species form spores, which pose a challenge to the food industry due to their ubiquitous nature and extreme resistance. Pressurization at <300 MPa triggers spore germination by activating germination receptors (GRs), while pressurization at >300 MPa likely triggers germination by opening dipicolinic acid (DPA) channels present in the inner membrane of the spores. In this work, we expose spores of Bacillus licheniformis, a species associated with food spoilage and occasionally with food poisoning, to high pressure (HP) for holding times of up to 2 h. By using mutant spores lacking one or several GRs, we dissect the roles of the GerA, Ynd, and GerK GRs in moderately HP (mHP; 150 MPa)-induced spore germination. We show that Ynd alone is sufficient for efficient mHP-induced spore germination. GerK also triggers germination with mHP, although at a reduced germination rate compared to that of Ynd. GerA stimulates mHP-induced germination but only in the presence of either the intact GerK or Ynd GR. These results suggests that the effectiveness of the individual GRs in mHP-induced germination differs from their effectiveness in nutrient-induced germination, where GerA plays an essential role. In contrast to Bacillus subtilis spores, treatment with very HP (vHP) of 550 MPa at 37°C did not promote effective germination of B. licheniformis spores. However, treatment with vHP in combination with elevated temperatures (60°C) gave a synergistic effect on spore germination and inactivation. Together, these results provide novel insights into how HP affects B. licheniformis spore germination and inactivation and the role of individual GRs in this process.IMPORTANCE Bacterial spores are inherently resistant to food-processing regimes, such as high-temperature short-time pasteurization, and may therefore compromise food durability and safety. The induction of spore germination facilitates subsequent inactivation by gentler processing conditions that maintain the sensory and nutritional qualities of the food. High-pressure (HP) processing is a nonthermal food-processing technology used to eliminate microbes from food. The application of this technology for spore eradication in the food industry requires a better understanding of how HP affects the spores of different bacterial species. The present study provides novel insights into how HP affects Bacillus licheniformis spores, a species associated with food spoilage and occasionally food poisoning. We describe the roles of different germination receptors in HP-induced germination and the effects of two different pressure levels on the germination and inactivation of spores. This study will potentially contribute to the effort to implement HP technology for spore inactivation in the food industry.
Project description:Nutrient germination of spores of Bacillus species occurs through germinant receptors (GRs) in spores' inner membrane (IM) in a process stimulated by sublethal heat activation. Bacillus subtilis spores maximum germination rates via different GRs required different 75 °C heat activation times: 15 min for l-valine germination via the GerA GR and 4 h for germination with the L-asparagine-glucose-fructose-K(+) mixture via the GerB and GerK GRs, with GerK requiring the most heat activation. In some cases, optimal heat activation decreased nutrient concentrations for half-maximal germination rates. Germination of spores via various GRs by high pressure (HP) of 150 MPa exhibited heat activation requirements similar to those of nutrient germination, and the loss of the GerD protein, required for optimal GR function, did not eliminate heat activation requirements for maximal germination rates. These results are consistent with heat activation acting primarily on GRs. However, (i) heat activation had no effects on GR or GerD protein conformation, as probed by biotinylation by an external reagent; (ii) spores prepared at low and high temperatures that affect spores' IM properties exhibited large differences in heat activation requirements for nutrient germination; and (iii) spore germination by 550 MPa of HP was also affected by heat activation, but the effects were relatively GR independent. The last results are consistent with heat activation affecting spores' IM and only indirectly affecting GRs. The 150- and 550-MPa HP germinations of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens spores, a potential surrogate for Clostridium botulinum spores in HP treatments of foods, were also stimulated by heat activation.
Project description:Clostridial spore germination requires degradation of the spore's peptidoglycan (PG) cortex by cortex-lytic enzymes (CLEs), and two Clostridium perfringens CLEs, SleC and SleM, degrade cortex PG in vitro. We now find that only SleC is essential for cortex hydrolysis and viability of C. perfringens spores. C. perfringens sleC spores did not germinate completely with nutrients, KCl, or a 1:1 chelate of Ca(2+) and dipicolinic acid (Ca-DPA), and the colony-forming efficiency of sleC spores was 10(3)-fold lower than that of wild-type spores. However, sleC spores incubated with various germinants released most of their DPA, although slower than wild-type or sleM spores, and DPA release from sleC sleM spores was very slow. In contrast, germination and viability of sleM spores were similar to that of wild-type spores, although sleC sleM spores had 10(5)-fold-lower viability. These results allow the following conclusions about C. perfringens spore germination: (i) SleC is essential for cortex hydrolysis; (ii) although SleM can degrade cortex PG in vitro, this enzyme is not essential; (iii) action of SleC alone or with SleM can accelerate DPA release; and (iv) Ca-DPA does not trigger spore germination by activation of CLEs.
Project description:The germination of Clostridium difficile spores is an important stage of the C. difficile life cycle. In other endospore-forming bacteria, the composition of the medium in which the spores are generated influences the abundance of germination-specific proteins, thereby influencing the sensitivity of the spores towards germinants. In C. difficile media composition on the spores has only been reported to influence the number of spores produced. One of the measures of spore germination is the analysis of the release of DPA from the spore core. To detect DPA release in real time, terbium chloride is often added to the germination conditions because Tb3+ complexes with the released DPA and this can be detected using fluorescence measurements. Although C. difficile spores germinate in response to TA and glycine, recently calcium was identified as an enhancer for spore germination. Here, we find that germination by spores prepared in peptone rich media, such as 70:30, is positively influenced by terbium. We hypothesize that, in these assays, Tb3+ functions similarly to calcium. Although the mechanism(s) causing increased sensitivity of the C. difficile spores that are prepared in peptone rich media to terbium is still unknown, we suggest that the TbCl3 concentration used in the analysis of C. difficile DPA release be carefully titrated so as not to misinterpret future findings.