The requirement for co-germinants during Clostridium difficile spore germination is influenced by mutations in yabG and cspA

PLoS Pathog. 2019 Apr 3;15(4):e1007681. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007681. eCollection 2019 Apr.


Clostridium difficile spore germination is critical for the transmission of disease. C. difficile spores germinate in response to cholic acid derivatives, such as taurocholate (TA), and amino acids, such as glycine or alanine. Although the receptor with which bile acids are recognized (germinant receptor) is known, the amino acid co-germinant receptor has remained elusive. Here, we used EMS mutagenesis to generate mutants with altered requirements for the amino acid co-germinant, similar to the strategy we used previously to identify the bile acid germinant receptor, CspC. Surprisingly, we identified strains that do not require co-germinants, and the mutant spores germinated in response to TA alone. Upon sequencing these mutants, we identified different mutations in yabG. In C. difficile, yabG expression is required for the processing of key germination components to their mature forms (e.g., CspBA to CspB and CspA). A defined yabG mutant exacerbated the EMS mutant phenotype. Building upon this work, we found that small deletions in cspA resulted in spores that germinated in the presence of TA alone without the requirement of a co-germinant. cspA encodes a pseudoprotease that was previously shown to be important for incorporation of the CspC germinant receptor. Herein, our study builds upon the role of CspA during C. difficile spore germination by providing evidence that CspA is important for recognition of co-germinants during C. difficile spore germination. Our work suggests that two pseudoproteases (CspC and CspA) likely function as the C. difficile germinant receptors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Clostridioides difficile / genetics
  • Clostridioides difficile / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Mutation*
  • Phenotype
  • Spores, Bacterial / genetics
  • Spores, Bacterial / growth & development*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Carrier Proteins
  • CspA protein, Clostridium