The orphan germinant receptor protein GerXAO (but not GerX3b) is essential for L-alanine induced germination in Clostridium botulinum Group II.
ABSTRACT: Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobic spore forming bacterium that produces the potent botulinum neurotoxin that causes a severe and fatal neuro-paralytic disease of humans and animals (botulism). C. botulinum Group II is a psychrotrophic saccharolytic bacterium that forms spores of moderate heat resistance and is a particular hazard in minimally heated chilled foods. Spore germination is a fundamental process that allows the spore to transition to a vegetative cell and typically involves a germinant receptor (GR) that responds to environmental signals. Analysis of C. botulinum Group II genomes shows they contain a single GR cluster (gerX3b), and an additional single gerA subunit (gerXAO). Spores of C. botulinum Group II strain Eklund 17B germinated in response to the addition of L-alanine, but did not germinate following the addition of exogenous Ca2+-DPA. Insertional inactivation experiments in this strain unexpectedly revealed that the orphan GR GerXAO is essential for L-alanine stimulated germination. GerX3bA and GerX3bC affected the germination rate but were unable to induce germination in the absence of GerXAO. No role could be identified for GerX3bB. This is the first study to identify the functional germination receptor of C. botulinum Group II.
Project description:Clostridium botulinum is a dangerous pathogen that forms the highly potent botulinum toxin, which when ingested causes a deadly neuroparalytic disease. The closely related Clostridium sporogenes is occasionally pathogenic, frequently associated with food spoilage and regarded as the non-toxigenic equivalent of Group I C. botulinum. Both species form highly resistant spores that are ubiquitous in the environment and which, under favourable growth conditions germinate to produce vegetative cells. To improve the control of botulinum neurotoxin-forming clostridia, it is imperative to comprehend the mechanisms by which spores germinate. Germination is initiated following the recognition of small molecules (germinants) by a specific germinant receptor (GR) located in the spore inner membrane. The present study precisely defines clostridial GRs, germinants and co-germinants. Group I C. botulinum ATCC3502 contains two tricistronic and one pentacistronic GR operons, while C. sporogenes ATCC15579 has three tricistronic and one tetracistronic GR operons. Insertional knockout mutants, allied with characterisation of recombinant GRs shows for the first time that amino acid stimulated germination in C. botulinum requires two tri-cistronic encoded GRs which act in synergy and cannot function individually. Spore germination in C. sporogenes requires one tri-cistronic GR. Two other GRs form part of a complex involved in controlling the rate of amino-acid stimulated germination. The suitability of using C. sporogenes as a substitute for C. botulinum in germination studies and food challenge tests is discussed.
Project description:Highly conserved amino acid residues in the C subunits of the germinant receptors (GRs) of spores of Bacillus and Clostridium species have been identified by amino acid sequence comparisons, as well as structural predictions based on the high-resolution structure recently determined for the C subunit of the Bacillus subtilis GerB GR (GerBC). Single and multiple alanine substitutions were made in these conserved residues in three regions of GerBC, and the effects of these changes on B. subtilis spore germination via the GerB GR alone or in concert with the GerK GR, as well as on germination via the GerA GR, were determined. In addition, levels of the GerBC variants in the spore inner membrane were measured, and a number of the GerBC proteins were expressed and purified and their solubility and aggregation status were assessed. This work has done the following: (i) identified a number of conserved amino acids that are crucial for GerBC function in spore germination via the GerB GR and that do not alter spores' levels of these GerBC variants; (ii) identified other conserved GerBC amino acid essential for the proper folding of the protein and/or for assembly of GerBC in the spore inner membrane; (iii) shown that some alanine substitutions in GerBC significantly decrease the GerA GR's responsiveness to its germinant l-valine, consistent with there being some type of interaction between GerA and GerB GR subunits in spores; and (iv) found no alanine substitutions that specifically affect interaction between the GerB and GerK GRs.
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:The Gram-positive, anaerobic, spore-forming bacterium Clostridium perfringens causes a variety of diseases in both humans and animals, and spore germination is thought to be the first stage of C. perfringens infection. Previous studies have indicated that the germinant receptor (GR) proteins encoded by the bicistronic gerKA-gerKC operon as well as the proteins encoded by the gerKB and gerAA genes are required for normal germination of C. perfringens spores. We now report the individual role of these GR proteins by analyzing the germination of strains carrying mutations in gerKA, gerKC, or both gerKB and gerAA. Western blot analysis was also used to determine the location and numbers of GerKC proteins in spores. Conclusions from this work include the following: (i) gerKC mutant spores germinate extremely poorly with KCl, l-asparagine, a mixture of asparagine and KCl, or NaPi; (ii) gerKC spores germinate significantly more slowly than wild-type and other GR mutant spores with a 1:1 chelate of Ca(2+) and dipicolinic acid and very slightly more slowly with dodecylamine; (iii) the germination defects in gerKC spores are largely restored by expressing the wild-type gerKA-gerKC operon in trans; (iv) GerKC is required for the spores' viability, almost certainly because of the gerKC spores' poor germination; and (v) GerKC is located in the spores' inner membrane, with ?250 molecules/spore. Collectively, these results indicate that GerKC is the main GR protein required for nutrient and nonnutrient germination of spores of C. perfringens food-poisoning isolates.
Project description:Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobic sporeforming bacterium that is notorious for producing a potent neurotoxin. Spores of C. botulinum can survive mild food processing treatments and subsequently germinate, multiply, produce toxin and cause botulism. Control of spore germination and outgrowth is therefore essential for the safety of mildly processed foods. However, little is known about the process of spore germination in group II C. botulinum (gIICb), which are a major concern in chilled foods because they are psychrotrophic. The classical model of spore germination states that germination is triggered by the binding of a germinant molecule to a cognate germinant receptor. Remarkably, unlike many other sporeformers, gIICb has only one predicted canonical germinant receptor although it responds to multiple germinants. Therefore, we deleted the gerBAC locus that encodes this germinant receptor to determine its role in germination. Surprisingly, the deletion did not affect germination by any of the nutrient germinants, nor by the non-nutrient dodecylamine. We conclude that one or more other, so far unidentified, germinant receptors must be responsible for nutrient induced germination in gIICb. Furthermore, the gerBAC locus was strongly conserved with intact open reading frames in 159 gIICb genomes, suggesting that it has nevertheless an important function.
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: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:Germination of Bacillus spores is induced by the interaction of specific nutrient molecules with germinant receptors (GRs) localized in the spore's inner membrane. GRs typically consist of three subunits referred to as A, B, and C, although functions of individual subunits are not known. Here we present the crystal structure of the N-terminal domain (NTD) of the A subunit of the Bacillus megaterium GerK3 GR, revealing two distinct globular subdomains bisected by a cleft, a fold with strong homology to substrate-binding proteins in bacterial ABC transporters. Molecular docking, chemical shift perturbation measurement, and mutagenesis coupled with spore germination analyses support a proposed model that the interface between the two subdomains in the NTD of GR A subunits serves as the germinant binding site and plays a critical role in spore germination. Our findings provide a conceptual framework for understanding the germinant recruitment mechanism by which GRs trigger spore germination.
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:Spore heat resistance, germination, and outgrowth are problematic bacterial properties compromising food safety and quality. Large interstrain variation in these properties makes prediction and control of spore behavior challenging. High-level heat resistance and slow germination of spores of some natural Bacillus subtilis isolates, encountered in foods, have been attributed to the occurrence of the spoVA2mob operon carried on the Tn1546 transposon. In this study, we further investigate the correlation between the presence of this operon in high-level-heat-resistant spores and their germination efficiencies before and after exposure to various sublethal heat treatments (heat activation, or HA), which are known to significantly improve spore responses to nutrient germinants. We show that high-level-heat-resistant spores harboring spoVA2mob required higher HA temperatures for efficient germination than spores lacking spoVA2mob The optimal spore HA requirements additionally depended on the nutrients used to trigger germination, l-alanine (l-Ala), or a mixture of l-asparagine, d-glucose, d-fructose, and K+ (AGFK). The distinct HA requirements of these two spore germination pathways are likely related to differences in properties of specific germinant receptors. Moreover, spores that germinated inefficiently in AGFK contained specific changes in sequences of the GerB and GerK germinant receptors, which are involved in this germination response. In contrast, no relation was found between transcription levels of main germination genes and spore germination phenotypes. The findings presented in this study have great implications for practices in the food industry, where heat treatments are commonly used to inactivate pathogenic and spoilage microbes, including bacterial spore formers.IMPORTANCE This study describes a strong variation in spore germination capacities and requirements for a heat activation treatment, i.e., an exposure to sublethal heat that increases spore responsiveness to nutrient germination triggers, among 17 strains of B. subtilis, including 9 isolates from spoiled food products. Spores of industrial foodborne isolates exhibited, on average, less efficient and slower germination responses and required more severe heat activation than spores from other sources. High heat activation requirements and inefficient, slow germination correlated with elevated resistance of spores to heat and with specific genetic features, indicating a common genetic basis of these three phenotypic traits. Clearly, interstrain variation and numerous factors that shape spore germination behavior challenge standardization of methods to recover highly heat-resistant spores from the environment and have an impact on the efficacy of preservation techniques used by the food industry to control spores.