RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, NON-P.H.S.
Spore Resistance Properties.
Spores of various Bacillus and Clostridium species are among the most resistant life forms known. Since the spores of some species are causative agents of much food spoilage, food poisoning, and human disease, and the spores of Bacillus anthracis are a major bioweapon, there is much interest in the mechanisms of spore resistance and how these spores can be killed. This article will discuss the factors involved in spore resistance to agents such as wet and dry heat, desiccation, UV and γ-radiation, enzymes that hydrolyze bacterial cell walls, and a variety of toxic chemicals, including genotoxic agents, oxidizing agents, aldehydes, acid, and alkali. These resistance factors include the outer layers of the spore, such as the thick proteinaceous coat that detoxifies reactive chemicals; the relatively impermeable inner spore membrane that restricts access of toxic chemicals to the spore core containing the spore's DNA and most enzymes; the low water content and high level of dipicolinic acid in the spore core that protect core macromolecules from the effects of heat and desiccation; the saturation of spore DNA with a novel group of proteins that protect the DNA against heat, genotoxic chemicals, and radiation; and the repair of radiation damage to DNA when spores germinate and return to life. Despite their extreme resistance, spores can be killed, including by damage to DNA, crucial spore proteins, the spore's inner membrane, and one or more components of the spore germination apparatus.
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