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Arch Microbiol. 2004 Apr;181(4):314-23. Epub 2004 Mar 11.

Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strains isolated from moisture-damaged buildings produced surfactin and a substance toxic to mammalian cells.

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Department of Applied Chemistry and Microbiology, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 56 (Biocenter), Helsinki, 00014, Finland.


Fungicidic Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strains isolated from the indoor environment of moisture-damaged buildings contained heat-stable, methanol-soluble substances that inhibited motility of boar spermatozoa within 15 min of exposure and killed feline lung cells in high dilution in 1 day. Boar sperm cells lost motility, cellular ATP, and NADH upon contact to the bacterial extract (0.2 microg dry wt/ml). Two bioactive substances were purified from biomass of the fungicidal isolates. One partially characterized substance, 1,197 Da, was moderately hydrophobic and contained leucine, proline, serine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid and tyrosine, in addition to chromophore(s) absorbing at 365 nm. In boar sperm and human neural cells (Paju), the compound depolarized the transmembrane potentials of mitochondria (Delta Psi(m)) and the plasma membrane (Delta Psi(p)) after a 20-min exposure and formed cation-selective channels in lipid membranes, with a selectivity K(+):Na(+):Ca(2+) of 26:15:3.5. The other substance was identified as a plasma-membrane-damaging lipopeptide surfactin. Plate-grown biomass of indoor Bacillus amyloliquefaciens contained ca. 7% of dry weight of the two substances, 1,197 Da and surfactin, in a ratio of 1:6 (w:w). The in vitro observed simultaneous collapse of both cytosolic and mitochondrial ATP in the affected mammalian cell, induced by the 1,197-Da cation channel, suggests potential health risks for occupants of buildings contaminated with such toxins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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