We report the complete genome sequence of Serratia liquefaciens strain ATCC 27592, which was previously identified as capable of growth under low-pressure conditions. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first announcement of the complete genome sequence of an S. liquefaciens strain.
The space environment contains high-energy charged particles (e.g., protons, neutrons, electrons, α-particles, heavy ions) emitted by the Sun and galactic sources or trapped in the radiation belts. Protons constitute the majority (87%) of high-energy charged particles. Spores of Bacillus species are one of the model systems used for astro- and radiobiological studies. In this study, spores of different Bacillus subtilis strains were used to study the effects of high energetic proton irradiation on spore survival. Spores of the wild-type B. subtilis strain [mutants deficient in the homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) DNA repair pathways and mutants deficient in various spore structural components such as dipicolinic acid (DPA), α/β-type small, acid-soluble spore protein (SASP) formation, spore coats, pigmentation, or spore core water content] were irradiated as air-dried multilayers on spacecraft-qualified aluminum coupons with 218 MeV protons [with a linear energy transfer (LET) of 0.4 keV/μm] to various final doses up to 2500 Gy. Spores deficient in NHEJ- and HR-mediated DNA repair were significantly more sensitive to proton radiation than wild-type spores, indicating that both HR and NHEJ DNA repair pathways are needed for spore survival. Spores lacking DPA, α/β-type SASP, or with increased core water content were also significantly more sensitive to proton radiation, whereas the resistance of spores lacking pigmentation or spore coats was essentially identical to that of the wild-type spores. Our results indicate that α/β-type SASP, core water content, and DPA play an important role in spore resistance to high-energy proton irradiation, suggesting their essential function as radioprotectants of the spore interior. Key Words: Bacillus—Spores—DNA repair—Protection—High-energy proton radiation. Astrobiology 12, 1069–1077.
Previous studies implicated loss of motility and mutations of the alsR and sigW regulatory genes in enhanced fitness of the Bacillus subtilis evolved strain WN716 over that of its ancestral strain WN624. The fitness of strains carrying knockout mutations alsR::spc, sigD::kan, and/or sigW::erm was measured and compared to that of the congenic ancestral strain by competition experiments.
Spores of wild-type and mutant Bacillus subtilis strains lacking various structural components were exposed to simulated Martian atmospheric and UV irradiation conditions. Spore survival and mutagenesis were strongly dependent on the functionality of all of the structural components, with small acid-soluble spore proteins, coat layers, and dipicolinic acid as key protectants.
Spore-forming bacteria are of particular concern in the context of planetary protection because their tough endospores may withstand certain sterilization procedures as well as the harsh environments of outer space or planetary surfaces. To test their hardiness on a hypothetical mission to Mars, spores of Bacillus subtilis 168 and Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 were exposed for 1.5 years to selected parameters of space in the experiment PROTECT during the EXPOSE-E mission on board the International Space Station. Mounted as dry layers on spacecraft-qualified aluminum coupons, the “trip to Mars” spores experienced space vacuum, cosmic and extraterrestrial solar radiation, and temperature fluctuations, whereas the “stay on Mars” spores were subjected to a simulated martian environment that included atmospheric pressure and composition, and UV and cosmic radiation. The survival of spores from both assays was determined after retrieval. It was clearly shown that solar extraterrestrial UV radiation (λ≥110 nm) as well as the martian UV spectrum (λ≥200 nm) was the most deleterious factor applied; in some samples only a few survivors were recovered from spores exposed in monolayers. Spores in multilayers survived better by several orders of magnitude. All other environmental parameters encountered by the “trip to Mars” or “stay on Mars” spores did little harm to the spores, which showed about 50% survival or more. The data demonstrate the high chance of survival of spores on a Mars mission, if protected against solar irradiation. These results will have implications for planetary protection considerations. Key Words: Planetary protection—Bacterial spores—Space experiment—Simulated Mars mission. Astrobiology 12, 445–456.
Five batch cultures of Bacillus subtilis were subjected to evolution in the laboratory for 6,000 generations under conditions repressing sporulation in complex liquid medium containing glucose. Between generations 1,000 and 2,000, variants with a distinct small-colony morphology arose and swept through four of the five populations that had been previously noted for their loss of sporulation (H. Maughan et al., Genetics 177:937-948, 2007). To better understand the nature of adaptation in these variants, individual strains were isolated from one population before (WN715) and after (WN716) the sweep. In addition to colony morphology, strains WN715 and WN716 differed in their motility, aerotaxis, and cell morphology. Competition experiments showed that strain WN716 had evolved a distinct fitness advantage over the ancestral strain and strain WN715 during growth and the transition to the postexponential growth phase, which was more pronounced when WN715 was present in the coculture. Microarray analyses revealed candidate genes in which mutations may have produced some of the observed phenotypes. For example, loss of motility in WN716 was accompanied by decreased transcription of all flagellar, motility, and chemotaxis genes on the microarray. Transcription of alsS and alsD was also lower in strain WN716, and the predicted loss of acetoin production and enhanced acetate production was confirmed by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis. The results suggested that the derived colony morphology of strain WN716 was associated with increased fitness, the alteration of several metabolic pathways, and the loss of a typical postexponential-phase response.
The roles of DNA repair by apurinic/apyrimidinic (AP) endonucleases alone, and together with DNA protection by α/β-type small acid-soluble spore proteins (SASP), in Bacillus subtilis spore resistance to different types of radiation have been studied. Spores lacking both AP endonucleases (Nfo and ExoA) and major SASP were significantly more sensitive to 254-nm UV-C, environmental UV (>280 nm), X-ray exposure, and high-energy charged (HZE)-particle bombardment and had elevated mutation frequencies compared to those of wild-type spores and spores lacking only one or both AP endonucleases or major SASP. These findings further implicate AP endonucleases and α/β-type SASP in repair and protection, respectively, of spore DNA against effects of UV and ionizing radiation.
Growth of Bacillus subtilis cells, normally adapted at Earth-normal atmospheric pressure (∼101.3 kPa), was progressively inhibited by lowering of pressure in liquid LB medium until growth essentially ceased at 2.5 kPa. Growth inhibition was immediately reversible upon return to 101.3 kPa, albeit at a slower rate. A population of B. subtilis cells was cultivated at the near-inhibitory pressure of 5 kPa for 1,000 generations, where a stepwise increase in growth was observed, as measured by the turbidity of 24-h cultures. An isolate from the 1,000-generation population was obtained that showed an increase in fitness at 5 kPa when compared to the ancestral strain or a strain obtained from a parallel population that evolved for 1,000 generations at 101.3 kPa. The results from this preliminary study have implications for understanding the ability of terrestrial microbes to grow in low-pressure environments such as Mars.
Spores of Bacillus subtilis contain a number of small, acid-soluble spore proteins (SASP) which comprise up to 20% of total spore core protein. The multiple α/β-type SASP have been shown to confer resistance to UV radiation, heat, peroxides, and other sporicidal treatments. In this study, SASP-defective mutants of B. subtilis and spores deficient in dacB, a mutation leading to an increased core water content, were used to study the relative contributions of SASP and increased core water content to spore resistance to germicidal 254-nm and simulated environmental UV exposure (280 to 400 nm, 290 to 400 nm, and 320 to 400 nm). Spores of strains carrying mutations in sspA, sspB, and both sspA and sspB (lacking the major SASP-α and/or SASP-β) were significantly more sensitive to 254-nm and all polychromatic UV exposures, whereas the UV resistance of spores of the sspE strain (lacking SASP-γ) was essentially identical to that of the wild type. Spores of the dacB-defective strain were as resistant to 254-nm UV-C radiation as wild-type spores. However, spores of the dacB strain were significantly more sensitive than wild-type spores to environmental UV treatments of >280 nm. Air-dried spores of the dacB mutant strain had a significantly higher water content than air-dried wild-type spores. Our results indicate that α/β-type SASP and decreased spore core water content play an essential role in spore resistance to environmentally relevant UV wavelengths whereas SASP-γ does not.
We used microarrays to identify the causes of sporulation deficiencies in Bacillus subtilis after 6,000 generations of evolution. We found that sporulation loss did not result from large-scale deletions; therefore, it must have resulted from smaller indels and/or substitutions. Transcription patterns of one strain versus its ancestor showed that sporulation was not initiated and suggested that sporulation loss may be part of an overall decline in plasticity.
Bacillus subtilis is capable of producing 2,3-butanediol from acetoin by fermentation, but to date, the gene encoding the enzyme responsible, acetoin reductase/2,3-butanediol dehydrogenase (AR/BDH), has remained unknown. A search of the B. subtilis genome database with the amino acid sequences of functional AR/BDHs from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Bacillus cereus resulted in the identification of a highly similar protein encoded by the B. subtilis ydjL gene. A knockout strain carrying a ydjL::cat insertion mutation was constructed, which (i) abolished 2,3-butanediol production in early stationary phase, (ii) produced no detectable AR or BDH activity in vitro, and (iii) accumulated the precursor acetoin in early stationary phase. The ydjL::cat mutation also affected the kinetics of lactate but not acetate production during stationary-phase cultivation with glucose under oxygen limitation. A very small amount of 2,3-butanediol was detected in very-late-stationary-phase (96-hour) cultures of the ydjL::cat mutant, suggesting the existence of a second gene encoding a minor AR activity. From the data, it is proposed that the major AR/BDH-encoding gene ydjL be renamed bdhA.
Most planetary protection research has concentrated on characterizing viable bioloads on spacecraft surfaces, developing techniques for bioload reduction prior to launch, and studying the effects of simulated martian environments on microbial survival. Little research has examined the persistence of biogenic signature molecules on spacecraft materials under simulated martian surface conditions. This study examined how endogenous adenosine-5′-triphosphate (ATP) would persist on aluminum coupons under simulated martian conditions of 7.1 mbar, full-spectrum simulated martian radiation calibrated to 4 W m−2 of UV-C (200 to 280 nm), −10°C, and a Mars gas mix of CO2 (95.54%), N2 (2.7%), Ar (1.6%), O2 (0.13%), and H2O (0.03%). Cell or spore viabilities of Acinetobacter radioresistens, Bacillus pumilus, and B. subtilis were measured in minutes to hours, while high levels of endogenous ATP were recovered after exposures of up to 21 days. The dominant factor responsible for temporal reductions in viability and loss of ATP was the simulated Mars surface radiation; low pressure, low temperature, and the Mars gas composition exhibited only slight effects. The normal burst of endogenous ATP detected during spore germination in B. pumilus and B. subtilis was reduced by 1 or 2 orders of magnitude following, respectively, 8- or 30-min exposures to simulated martian conditions. The results support the conclusion that endogenous ATP will persist for time periods that are likely to extend beyond the nominal lengths of most surface missions on Mars, and planetary protection protocols prior to launch may require additional rigor to further reduce the presence and abundance of biosignature molecules on spacecraft surfaces.
The role of DNA repair by nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ), homologous recombination, spore photoproduct lyase, and DNA polymerase I and genome protection via α/β-type small, acid-soluble spore proteins (SASP) in Bacillus subtilis spore resistance to accelerated heavy ions (high-energy charged [HZE] particles) and X rays has been studied. Spores deficient in NHEJ and α/β-type SASP were significantly more sensitive to HZE particle bombardment and X-ray irradiation than were the recA, polA, and splB mutant and wild-type spores, indicating that NHEJ provides an efficient DNA double-strand break repair pathway during spore germination and that the loss of the α/β-type SASP leads to a significant radiosensitivity to ionizing radiation, suggesting the essential function of these spore proteins as protectants of spore DNA against ionizing radiation.
RNA polymerase is a central macromolecular machine controlling the flow of information from genotype to phenotype, and insights into global transcriptional regulation can be gained by studying mutational perturbations in the enzyme. Mutations in the RNA polymerase β subunit gene rpoB causing resistance to rifampin (Rifr) in Bacillus subtilis were previously shown to lead to alterations in the expression of a number of global phenotypes known to be under transcriptional control, such as growth, competence for transformation, sporulation, and germination (H. Maughan, B. Galeano, and W. L. Nicholson, J. Bacteriol. 186:2481-2486, 2004). To better understand the global effects of rpoB mutations on metabolism, wild-type and 11 distinct congenic Rifr mutant strains of B. subtilis were tested for utilization of 95 substrates by use of Biolog GP2 MicroPlates. A number of alterations of substrate utilization patterns were observed in the Rifr mutants, including the utilization of novel substrates previously unknown in B. subtilis, such as gentiobiose, β-methyl-d-glucoside, and d-psicose. The results indicate that combining global metabolic profiling with mutations in RNA polymerase provides a system-wide approach for uncovering previously unknown metabolic capabilities and further understanding global transcriptional control circuitry in B. subtilis.
The role of DNA repair by nonhomologous-end joining (NHEJ) in spore resistance to UV, ionizing radiation, and ultrahigh vacuum was studied in wild-type and DNA repair mutants (recA, splB, ykoU, ykoV, and ykoU ykoV mutants) of Bacillus subtilis. NHEJ-defective spores with mutations in ykoU, ykoV, and ykoU ykoV were significantly more sensitive to UV, ionizing radiation, and ultrahigh vacuum than wild-type spores, indicating that NHEJ provides an important pathway during spore germination for repair of DNA double-strand breaks.
Previously, spontaneous rifampin resistance mutations were isolated in cluster I of the rpoB gene, resulting in amino acid replacements (Q469R, H482R, H482Y, or S487L) in the Bacillus subtilis RNA polymerase β subunit (W. L. Nicholson and H. Maughan, J. Bacteriol. 184:4936-4940, 2002). In this study, each amino acid change in the β subunit was observed to result in its own unique spectrum of effects on growth and various developmental events, including sporulation, germination, and competence for transformation. The results thus establish the important role played by the RNA polymerase β subunit, not only in the catalytic aspect of transcription, but also in the regulation of major developmental events in B. subtilis.
It has recently been proposed that phenotypic variation in clonal populations of bacterial species results from intracellular “noise,” i.e., random fluctuations in levels of cellular molecules, which would be predicted to be insensitive to selective pressure. To test this notion, we propagated five populations of Bacillus subtilis for 5,000 generations with selection for one phenotype: the decision to sporulate. In support of the noise hypothesis, we report that none of the populations responded to selection by improving their efficiency of sporulation, indicating that intracellular noise is independent of heritable genotype.
Stainless steel surfaces coated with paints containing a silver- and zinc-containing zeolite (AgION antimicrobial) were assayed in comparison to uncoated stainless steel for antimicrobial activity against vegetative cells and spores of three Bacillus species, namely, B. anthracis Sterne, B. cereus T, and B. subtilis 168. Under the test conditions (25°C and 80% relative humidity), the zeolite coating produced approximately 3 log10 inactivation of vegetative cells within a 5- to 24-h period, but viability of spores of the three species was not significantly affected.
Recent bioterrorism concerns have prompted renewed efforts towards understanding the biology of bacterial spore resistance to radiation with a special emphasis on the spores of Bacillus anthracis. A review of the literature revealed that B. anthracis Sterne spores may be three to four times more resistant to 254-nm-wavelength UV than are spores of commonly used indicator strains of Bacillus subtilis. To test this notion, B. anthracis Sterne spores were purified and their UV inactivation kinetics were determined in parallel with those of the spores of two indicator strains of B. subtilis, strains WN624 and ATCC 6633. When prepared and assayed under identical conditions, the spores of all three strains exhibited essentially identical UV inactivation kinetics. The data indicate that standard UV treatments that are effective against B. subtilis spores are likely also sufficient to inactivate B. anthracis spores and that the spores of standard B. subtilis strains could reliably be used as a biodosimetry model for the UV inactivation of B. anthracis spores.
When exposed to 254-nm UV, spores of Encephalitozoon intestinalis, Encephalitozoon cuniculi, and Encephalitozoon hellem exhibited 3.2-log reductions in viability at UV fluences of 60, 140, and 190 J/m2, respectively, and demonstrated UV inactivation kinetics similar to those observed for endospores of DNA repair-defective mutant Bacillus subtilis strains used as biodosimetry surrogates. The results indicate that spores of Encephalitozoon spp. are readily inactivated at low UV fluences and that spores of UV-sensitive B. subtilis strains can be useful surrogates in evaluating UV reactor performance.
Mutations causing rifampin resistance in vegetative cells of Bacillus subtilis 168 have thus far been mapped to a rather restricted set of alterations at either Q469 or H482 within cluster I of the rpoB gene encoding the β subunit of RNA polymerase. In this study, we demonstrated that spores of B. subtilis 168 exhibit a spectrum of spontaneous rifampin resistance mutations distinct from that of vegetative cells. In addition to the rpoB mutations Q469K, Q469R, and H482Y previously characterized in vegetative cells, we isolated a new mutation of rpoB, H482R, from vegetative cells. Additional new rifampin resistance mutations arising from spores were detected at A478N and most frequently at S487L. The S487L change is the predominant change found in rpoB mutations sequenced from rifampin-resistant clinical isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The observations are discussed in terms of the underlying differences of the DNA environment within dormant cells and vegetatively growing cells.
Pyridine-2,6-dicarboxylic acid (dipicolinic acid [DPA]) constitutes approximately 10% of Bacillus subtilis spore dry weight and has been shown to play a significant role in the survival of B. subtilis spores exposed to wet heat and to 254-nm UV radiation in the laboratory. However, to date, no work has addressed the importance of DPA in the survival of spores exposed to environmentally relevant solar UV radiation. Air-dried films of spores containing DPA or lacking DPA due to a null mutation in the DPA synthetase operon dpaAB were assayed for their resistance to UV-C (254 nm), UV-B (290 to 320 nm), full-spectrum sunlight (290 to 400 nm), and sunlight from which the UV-B portion was filtered (325 to 400 nm). In all cases, air-dried DPA-less spores were significantly more UV sensitive than their isogenic DPA-containing counterparts. However, the degree of difference in UV resistance between the two strains was wavelength dependent, being greatest in response to radiation in the UV-B portion of the spectrum. In addition, the inactivation responses of DPA-containing and DPA-less spores also depended strongly upon whether spores were exposed to UV as air-dried films or in aqueous suspension. Spores lacking the gerA, gerB, and gerK nutrient germination pathways, and which therefore rely on chemical triggering of germination by the calcium chelate of DPA (Ca-DPA), were also more UV sensitive than wild-type spores to all wavelengths tested, suggesting that the Ca-DPA-mediated spore germination pathway may consist of a UV-sensitive component or components.
The predominant photolesion in the DNA of UV-irradiated dormant bacterial spores is the thymine dimer 5-thyminyl-5,6-dihydrothymine, commonly referred to as spore photoproduct (SP). A major determinant of SP repair during spore germination is its direct reversal by the enzyme SP lyase, encoded by the splB gene in Bacillus subtilis. SplB protein containing an N-terminal tag of six histidine residues [(6His)SplB] was purified from dormant B. subtilis spores and shown to efficiently cleave SP but not cyclobutane cis,syn thymine-thymine dimers in vitro. In contrast, SplB protein containing an N-terminal 10-histidine tag [(10His)SplB] purified from an Escherichia coli overexpression system was incompetent to cleave SP unless the 10-His tag was first removed by proteolysis at an engineered factor Xa site. To assay the parameters of binding of SplB protein to UV-damaged DNA, a 35-bp double-stranded oligonucleotide was constructed which carried a single pair of adjacent thymines on one strand. Irradiation of the oligonucleotide in aqueous solution or at 10% relative humidity resulted in formation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (Py◊Py) or SP, respectively. (10His)SplB was assayed for oligonucleotide binding using a DNase I protection assay. In the presence of (10His)SplB, the SP-containing oligonucleotide was selectively protected from DNase I digestion (half-life, >60 min), while the Py◊Py-containing oligonucleotide and the unirradiated oligonucleotide were rapidly digested by DNase I (half-lives, 6 and 9 min, respectively). DNase I footprinting of (10His)SplB bound to the artificial substrate was carried out utilizing the 32P end-labeled 35-bp oligonucleotide containing SP. DNase I footprinting showed that SplB protected at least a 9-bp region surrounding SP from digestion with DNase I with the exception of two DNase I-hypersensitive sites within the protected region. (10His)SplB also caused significant enhancement of DNase I digestion of the SP-containing oligonucleotide for at least a full helical turn 3′ to the protected region. The data suggest that binding of SP lyase to SP causes significant bending or distortion of the DNA helix in the vicinity of the lesion.
Endospores of Bacillus spp., especially Bacillus subtilis, have served as experimental models for exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying the incredible longevity of spores and their resistance to environmental insults. In this review we summarize the molecular laboratory model of spore resistance mechanisms and attempt to use the model as a basis for exploration of the resistance of spores to environmental extremes both on Earth and during postulated interplanetary transfer through space as a result of natural impact processes.
The loss of stratospheric ozone and the accompanying increase in solar UV flux have led to concerns regarding decreases in global microbial productivity. Central to understanding this process is determining the types and amounts of DNA damage in microbes caused by solar UV irradiation. While UV irradiation of dormant Bacillus subtilis endospores results mainly in formation of the “spore photoproduct” 5-thyminyl-5,6-dihydrothymine, genetic evidence indicates that an additional DNA photoproduct(s) may be formed in spores exposed to solar UV-B and UV-A radiation (Y. Xue and W. L. Nicholson, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 62:2221–2227, 1996). We examined the occurrence of double-strand breaks, single-strand breaks, cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers, and apurinic-apyrimidinic sites in spore DNA under several UV irradiation conditions by using enzymatic probes and neutral or alkaline agarose gel electrophoresis. DNA from spores irradiated with artificial 254-nm UV-C radiation accumulated single-strand breaks, double-strand breaks, and cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers, while DNA from spores exposed to artificial UV-B radiation (wavelengths, 290 to 310 nm) accumulated only cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers. DNA from spores exposed to full-spectrum sunlight (UV-B and UV-A radiation) accumulated single-strand breaks, double-strand breaks, and cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers, whereas DNA from spores exposed to sunlight from which the UV-B component had been removed with a filter (“UV-A sunlight”) accumulated only single-strand breaks and double-strand breaks. Apurinic-apyrimidinic sites were not detected in spore DNA under any of the irradiation conditions used. Our data indicate that there is a complex spectrum of UV photoproducts in DNA of bacterial spores exposed to solar UV irradiation in the environment.