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Differential gene expression for investigation of the effect of germinants and heat activation to induce germination in Bacillus cereus spores

Soni, Aswathi, Oey, Indrawati, Silcock, Patrick, Permina, Elizabeth, Bremer, Phil J.
Food research international 2018
ABC transporters, Bacillus cereus, alanine, bacterial growth, foods, gene expression regulation, heat, heat treatment, operon, protein synthesis, receptors, ribosomal proteins, spore germination, spores, synergism
Differential gene expression was used to explore the mechanisms underpinning the differences in the impact of heat activation (70 °C for 30 min) on the germination of Bacillus cereus spores in the presence and absence of a germinant (L-alanine). The number of germinated cells, after heat activation plus L-alanine (3.5 ± 0.02 log CFU/ml) in the spore only initial population was found to be higher than that in only heat activated spores (2.01 ± 0.02 log CFU/ml). The concentration of DPA released by heat activated spores in the presence of L-alanine was 68.3 ± 0.1 and 112.1 ± 0.02 μg/ml after 30 and 60 min, compared to 96.5 and 166.2 ± 0.01 μg/ml after 30 and 90 min, respectively released by spores subjected only to heat activation. Gene (BC0784) encoding for the spore germination protein, gerA operon was up-regulated with a log2-transformed fold change value of 1.2 due to heat activation in the presence of L-alanine. The GerA operon located in the inner membrane is known to be involved in the uptake of L-alanine by B. cereus and has been reported to be involved in L-alanine mediated germination. In addition the up-regulation of genes involved in the uptake of L-alanine is proposed to provide the answer to the synergistic effect of heat and L-alanine in inducing germination in B. cereus spores. In short, heat activation increases the ability of L-alanine to penetrate into the spore's inner membrane, where it can be recognized by the receptors for initiation of the germination pathway. In the current study, the majority of the ribosomal proteins were down-regulated (when spores were heat treated in presence of germinants) this process also appeared to slow down protein synthesis by restricting the protein translation machinery. Differential gene expression revealed the genes responsible for the pathways related to transport and recognition of L-alanine into the spore that could have led to the accelerated germination process along with partial shutting down of protein synthesis pathway and ABC transporters. Knowledge of gene regulation in spores during heat activation will help in the development of approaches to prevent spore germination, which could provide an additional safeguard against bacterial growth and toxin production in improperly cooled heat treated foods.