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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e38054. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038054. Epub 2012 Jun 6.

Role of sphingomyelinase in infectious diseases caused by Bacillus cereus.

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Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tokushima Bunri University, Yamashiro-cho, Tokushima, Japan.


Bacillus cereus (B. cereus) is a pathogen in opportunistic infections. Here we show that Bacillus cereus sphingomyelinase (Bc-SMase) is a virulence factor for septicemia. Clinical isolates produced large amounts of Bc-SMase, grew in vivo, and caused death among mice, but ATCC strains isolated from soil did not. A transformant of the ATCC strain carrying a recombinant plasmid containing the Bc-SMase gene grew in vivo, but that with the gene for E53A, which has little enzymatic activity, did not. Administration of an anti-Bc-SMase antibody and immunization against Bc-SMase prevented death caused by the clinical isolates, showing that Bc-SMase plays an important role in the diseases caused by B. cereus. Treatment of mouse macrophages with Bc-SMase resulted in a reduction in the generation of H(2)O(2) and phagocytosis of macrophages induced by peptidoglycan (PGN), but no effect on the release of TNF-α and little release of LDH under our experimental conditions. Confocal laser microscopy showed that the treatment of mouse macrophages with Bc-SMase resulted in the formation of ceramide-rich domains. A photobleaching analysis suggested that the cells treated with Bc-SMase exhibited a reduction in membrane fluidity. The results suggest that Bc-SMase is essential for the hydrolysis of SM in membranes, leading to a reduction in phagocytosis.

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