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J Appl Microbiol. 2003;95(3):637-48.

Germination of spores of Bacillus subtilis with dodecylamine.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06032, USA.



To determine the properties of Bacillus subtilis spores germinated with the alkylamine dodecylamine, and the mechanism of dodecylamine-induced spore germination.


Spores of B. subtilis prepared in liquid medium were germinated efficiently by dodecylamine, while spores prepared on solid medium germinated more poorly with this agent. Dodecylamine germination of spores was accompanied by release of almost all spore dipicolinic acid (DPA), degradation of the spore's peptidoglycan cortex, release of the spore's pool of free adenine nucleotides and the killing of the spores. The dodecylamine-germinated spores did not initiate metabolism, did not degrade their pool of small, acid-soluble spore proteins efficiently and had a significantly lower level of core water than did spores germinated by nutrients. As measured by DPA release, dodecylamine readily induced germination of B. subtilis spores that: (a) were decoated, (b) lacked all the receptors for nutrient germinants, (c) lacked both the lytic enzymes either of which is essential for cortex degradation, or (d) had a cortex that could not be attacked by the spore's cortex-lytic enzymes. The DNA in dodecylamine-germinated wild-type spores was readily stained, while the DNA in dodecylamine-germinated spores of strains that were incapable of spore cortex degradation was not. These latter germinated spores also did not release their pool of free adenine nucleotides.


These results indicate that: (a) the spore preparation method is very important in determining the rate of spore germination with dodecylamine, (b) wild-type spores germinated by dodecylamine progress only part way through the germination process, (c) dodecylamine may trigger spore germination by a novel mechanism involving the activation of neither the spore's nutrient germinant receptors nor the cortex-lytic enzymes, and (d) dodecylamine may trigger spore germination by directly or indirectly activating release of DPA from the spore core, through the opening of channels for DPA in the spore's inner membrane.


These results provide new insight into the mechanism of spore germination with the cationic surfactant dodecylamine, and also into the mechanism of spore germination in general. New knowledge of mechanisms to stimulate spore germination may have applied utility, as germinated spores are much more sensitive to processing treatments than are dormant spores.

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