Spore break out from dormancy studied

June 5, 2007 at 12:52 PM
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LIVERMORE, Calif., June 5 (UPI) -- U.S. Department of Energy scientists have used atomic force microscopy to discover how awakening bacterial spores break from their dormant state.

Although significant progress has been made in understanding the biochemical and genetic bases of the spore germination process, it remained unclear how a spore ends its dormant state.

But the new in vitro study of single germinating Bacillus atrophaeus spores details how the spore coat structures break down, and it shows with unprecedented resolution how the new bacterium emerges from the disintegrating spore.

"A thorough understanding of spore germination is important for the development of new countermeasures that identify the earliest stages of a wide range of spore mediated diseases, including botulism, gas gangrene and pulmonary anthrax," said Alexander Malkin, senior author of the study conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "But it's also important to gain fundamental insights into the key events in bacterial cell development."

The research, that also included Marco Plomp and scientists from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute and Northwestern University, appears in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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