Dissecting Interactions Between Nucleosides and Germination Receptors in Bacillus Cereus 569 Spores

Microbiology. 2010 Apr;156(Pt 4):1244-1255. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.030270-0. Epub 2009 Dec 24.


Bacillus cereus 569 spores germinate either with inosine as a sole germinant or with a combination of nucleosides and L-alanine. Whereas the inosine-only germination pathway requires the presence of two different germination receptors (GerI and GerQ) to be activated, the nucleoside/alanine germination pathway only needs one of the two receptors. To differentiate how nucleoside recognition varies between the inosine-only germination pathway and the nucleoside/alanine germination pathway, we tested 61 purine analogues as agonists and antagonists of the two pathways in wild-type, DeltagerI and DeltagerQ spores. The structure-activity relationships of germination agonists and antagonists suggest that the inosine-only germination pathway is restricted to recognize a single germinant (inosine), but can be inhibited in predictable patterns by structurally distinct purine nucleosides. B. cereus spores encoding GerI as the only nucleoside receptor (DeltagerQ mutant) showed a germination inhibition profile similar to wild-type spores treated with inosine only. Thus, GerI seems to have a well-organized binding site that recognizes inosine and inhibitors through specific substrate-protein interactions. Structure-activity analysis also showed that the nucleoside/alanine germination pathway is more promiscuous toward purine nucleoside agonists, and is only inhibited by hydrophobic analogues. B. cereus spores encoding GerQ as the only nucleoside receptor (DeltagerI mutant) behaved like wild-type spores treated with inosine and L-alanine. Thus, the GerQ receptor seems to recognize substrates in a more flexible binding site through non-specific interactions. We propose that the GerI receptor is responsible for germinant detection in the inosine-only germination pathway. On the other hand, supplementing inosine with l-alanine allows bypassing of the GerI receptor to activate the more flexible GerQ receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / metabolism
  • Bacillus cereus / genetics
  • Bacillus cereus / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Inosine / metabolism
  • Nucleosides / chemistry
  • Nucleosides / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Spores, Bacterial / genetics
  • Spores, Bacterial / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Nucleosides
  • Inosine
  • Alanine