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Mol Microbiol. 2010 Jan;75(2):365-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2009.06972.x. Epub 2009 Nov 25.

The role of Bacillus anthracis germinant receptors in germination and virulence.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA.


Nutrient-dependent germination of Bacillus anthracis spores is stimulated when receptors located in the inner membrane detect combinations of amino acid and purine nucleoside germinants. B. anthracis produces five distinct germinant receptors, GerH, GerK, GerL, GerS and GerX. Otherwise isogenic mutant strains expressing only one of these receptors were created and tested for germination and virulence. The GerH receptor was necessary and sufficient for wild-type levels of germination with inosine-containing germinants in the absence of other receptors. GerK and GerL were sufficient for germination in 50 mM L-alanine. When mutants were inoculated intratracheally, any receptor, except for GerX, was sufficient to allow for a fully virulent infection. In contrast, when inoculated subcutaneously only the GerH receptor was able to facilitate a fully virulent infection. These results suggest that route of infection determines germinant receptor requirements. A mutant lacking all five germinant receptors was also attenuated and exhibited a severe germination defect in vitro. Together, these data give us a greater understanding of the earliest moments of germination, and provide a more detailed picture of the signals required to stimulate this process.

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