Clostridioides difficile spores, like the spores from most endospore-forming organisms, are a metabolically dormant stage of development with a complex structure that conveys considerable resistance to environmental conditions, e.g., wet heat. This resistance is due to the large amount of dipicolinic acid (DPA) that is taken up by the spore core, preventing rotational motion of the core proteins. DPA is synthesized by the mother cell, and its packaging into the spore core is mediated by the products of the spoVA operon, which has a variable number of genes, depending on the organism. C. difficile encodes 3 spoVA orthologues, spoVAC, spoVAD, and spoVAE. Prior work has shown that C. difficile SpoVAC is a mechanosensing protein responsible for DPA release from the spore core upon the initiation of germination. However, the roles of SpoVAD and SpoVAE remain unclear in C. difficile. In this study, we analyzed the roles of SpoVAD and SpoVAE and found that they are essential for DPA uptake into the spore, similar to SpoVAC. Using split luciferase protein interaction assays, we found that these proteins interact, and we propose a model where SpoVAC/SpoVAD/SpoVAE proteins interact at or near the inner spore membrane, and each member of the complex is essential for DPA uptake into the spore core. IMPORTANCE C. difficile spore heat resistance provides an avenue for it to survive the disinfection protocols in hospital and community settings. The spore heat resistance is mainly the consequence of the high DPA content within the spore core. By elucidating the mechanism by which DPA is taken up by the spore core, this study may provide insight into how to disrupt the spore heat resistance with the aim of making the current disinfection protocols more efficient at preventing the spread of C. difficile in the environment.
Keywords: Clostridium difficile; DPA; SpoVAC; SpoVAD; SpoVAE; spores.