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Involvement of Clostridium botulinum ATCC 3502 sigma factor K in early-stage sporulation.


A key survival mechanism of Clostridium botulinum, the notorious neurotoxic food pathogen, is the ability to form heat-resistant spores. While the genetic mechanisms of sporulation are well understood in the model organism Bacillus subtilis, nothing is known about these mechanisms in C. botulinum. Using the ClosTron gene-knockout tool, sigK, encoding late-stage (stage IV) sporulation sigma factor K in B. subtilis, was disrupted in C. botulinum ATCC 3502 to produce two different mutants with distinct insertion sites and orientations. Both mutants were unable to form spores, and their elongated cell morphology suggested that the sporulation pathway was blocked at an early stage. In contrast, sigK-complemented mutants sporulated successfully. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis of sigK in the parent strain revealed expression at the late log growth phase in the parent strain. Analysis of spo0A, encoding the sporulation master switch, in the sigK mutant and the parent showed significantly reduced relative levels of spo0A expression in the sigK mutant compared to the parent strain. Similarly, sigF showed significantly lower relative transcription levels in the sigK mutant than the parent strain, suggesting that the sporulation pathway was blocked in the sigK mutant at an early stage. We conclude that σ(K) is essential for early-stage sporulation in C. botulinum ATCC 3502, rather than being involved in late-stage sporulation, as reported for the sporulation model organism B. subtilis. Understanding the sporulation mechanism of C. botulinum provides keys to control the public health risks that the spores of this dangerous pathogen cause through foods.


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    Clostridium botulinum
    Gene Expression Profiling
    Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
    Gene Knockout Techniques
    Genetic Complementation Test
    Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
    Spores, Bacterial
    Transcription Factors

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article
    Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't



    PubMed ID