Characterization of Bacillus Spore Membrane Proteomes and Investigation of Their Roles in the Spore Germination Process
Components of the bacterial spore germination apparatus are crucial for survival and for initiation of infection by some pathogens. While some components of the germination apparatus are well conserved in spore-forming species, such as the spoVA operon, each species may possess a different and possibly unique germinant recognition mechanism. The significance of several individual proteins in the germination process has been characterized. However, the mechanisms of how these proteins perform their functions and the network connecting these proteins in the complete germination process are still a mystery.
In this study, we characterized a Bacillus subtilis superdormant spore population and investigated the abundance of 11 germination-related proteins. The relative quantities of these proteins in dormant, germinating and superdormant spores suggested that variation in the levels of proteins, other than germinant receptor proteins may result in superdormancy. Specifically, variation in the abundance of the GerD lipoprotein may contribute to heterogeneity of spore germination rates.
Spore membrane proteomes of Bacillus anthracis and B. subtilis were characterized to generate a candidate protein list that can be further investigated. Proteins that were not previously known to be spore-associated were identified, and many of these proteins shared great similarity in both Bacillus species. A significant number of these proteins are implicated in functions that play major roles in spore formation and germination, such as amino acid or inorganic ion transport and protein fate determination.
By analyzing the in vivo and in vitro activity of HtrC, we proved that the protease is responsible for YpeB proteolytic processing at specific sites during germination. However, without HtrC present in the spore, other proteases appear to degrade YpeB at a reduced rate. The activity of purified HtrC in vitro was stimulated by a relatively high concentration of Mn²⁺ or Ca²⁺ ions, but the mechanism behind the stimulation is not clear. We also demonstrated that YpeB and SleB, in the absence of their partner protein, were degraded by unknown proteases other than HtrC during spore formation. Identification and characterization of these unknown proteases would be a future direction for revealing the roles of proteases in spore germination.