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Keywords:

  • mycobacteria;
  • dormancy;
  • nonculturability;
  • histone-like protein;
  • Rpf

Abstract

The role of histone-like protein (Hlp) in the development of a dormant state in long-incubated stationary-phase Mycobacterium smegmatis cells was studied in two models: (1) adoption of ‘nonculturable’ (NC) state, which is reversible due to resuscitation with proteinaceous resuscitation-promoting factor (Rpf) and (2) the formation of morphologically distinct, ovoid resting forms. In the first model, inactivation of the hlp gene resulted in prolongation of culturability of starved cells followed by irreversible nonculturability when mycobacterial cells were unresponsive to resuscitation with Rpf. In the second model, M. smegmatis strain with the inactivated hlp gene was able to form dormant ovoid cells, but they were less resistant to heating and UV radiation than those of wild-type strain. The susceptibility of ovoid cells produced by Δhlp mutant to these damaging factors was probably due to a less condensed state of DNA, as revealed by fluorescent microscopy and DAPI staining. Evidently, Hlp is essential for cell viability at a later stage of NC dormancy or provides a greater stability of specialized dormant forms.