Direct mass spectrometric analysis of Bacillus spores

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 1999;13(23):2320-6. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0231(19991215)13:23<2320::AID-RCM791>3.0.CO;2-Q.


Spores from the Bacillus species, B. cereus, B. anthracis, B. thuringensis, B. lichenformis, B. globigi, and B. subtilis, were examined by direct probe mass spectrometry using electron ionization (EI) and positive and negative chemical ionization (CI). Molecular ions from free fatty acids and nucleic acids were observed in the 70eV spectra as were fragments from glycerides. Spectra obtained with isobutane positive chemical ionization (CI(+)) were dominated by ions associated with pyranose compounds such as N-acetylglucosamine (NAG). Unlike the positive ion spectra, the negative ion spectra of the spores were very simple and contained few peaks. The M(-.) ion from dipicolinic acid (DPA) was the base peak in the negative ion spectra of all spore species except those from B. lichenformis. The negative ion of DPA produced such a strong signal that 10(8) colony forming units (CFUs) of B. cereus spores could be detected directly in 0.5 g of ground rice. Principal component analysis (PCA) of the spectra revealed that only CI(+) spectra contained differences that could be used to identify the spectra by species. Differentiation of the CI(+) spectra by PCA was attributed to variances in the peaks associated with the bacterial polymer poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) and NAG. Similar differences in PHB and NAG peaks were detected in the CI(+) spectra of a suite of vegetative Bacillus stains grown with various media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / analysis
  • Bacillus / chemistry*
  • Bacillus / physiology*
  • Bacillus / ultrastructure
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / analysis
  • Glycerides / analysis
  • Hydroxybutyrates / analysis
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Picolinic Acids / analysis
  • Polyesters / analysis
  • RNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Species Specificity
  • Spores, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Spores, Bacterial / ultrastructure


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Glycerides
  • Hydroxybutyrates
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Picolinic Acids
  • Polyesters
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate
  • dipicolinic acid
  • Acetylglucosamine