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Keywords:

  • Bacillus ;
  • hydrogen peroxide;
  • hypochlorite;
  • spores;
  • spore germination;
  • sterilization

Abstract

More than 95% of individuals in populations of Bacillus subtilis spores killed approximately 95% by hydrogen peroxide or hypochlorite germinated with a nutrient, although the germination of the treated spores was slower than that of untreated spores. The slow germination of individual oxidizing agent-treated spores was due to: (i) 3- to 5-fold longer lag times (Tlag) between germinant addition and initiation of fast release of spores' large dipicolinic acid (DPA) depot (ii) 2- to 10-fold longer times (ΔTrelease) for rapid DPA release, once this process had been initiated; and (iii) 3- to 7-fold longer times needed for lysis of spores' peptidoglycan cortex. These results indicate that effects of oxidizing agent treatment on subsequent spore germination are on: (i) nutrient germinant receptors in spores' inner membrane (ii) components of the DPA release process, possibly SpoVA proteins also in spores' inner membrane, or the cortex-lytic enzyme CwlJ; and (iii) the cortex-lytic enzyme SleB, also largely in spores' inner membrane. This study further indicates that rapid assays of spore viability based on measurement of DPA release in spore germination can give false-positive readings.

Significance and Impact of the Study

This work shows that with Bacillus subtilis spore populations in which approximately 95% of individual spores were killed by several oxidizing agents, >95% of the spores in these populations germinated with nutrients, albeit slowly. This is important, as assay of an early germination event, release of dipicolinic acid, has been suggested as a rapid assay for spore viability and would give false-positive readings for the level of the killing of oxidizing agent-treated spore populations. Analysis of the germination kinetics of multiple individual untreated or oxidizing agent-treated spores also provides new information on proteins damaged by oxidizing agent treatment, and at least some of which are in spores' inner membrane.