Spore germination of 17 Bacillus cereus food isolates and reference strains was evaluated using flow cytometry analysis in combination with fluorescent staining at a single-spore level. This approach allowed for rapid collection of germination data under more than 20 conditions, including heat activation of spores, germination in complex media (brain heart infusion [BHI] and tryptone soy broth [TSB]), and exposure to saturating concentrations of single amino acids and the combination of alanine and inosine. Whole-genome sequence comparison revealed a total of 11 clusters of operons encoding germinant receptors (GRs): GerK, GerI, and GerL were present in all strains, whereas GerR, GerS, GerG, GerQ, GerX, GerF, GerW, and GerZ (sub)clusters showed a more diverse presence/absence in different strains. The spores of tested strains displayed high diversity with regard to their sensitivity and responsiveness to selected germinants and heat activation. The two laboratory strains, B. cereus ATCC 14579 and ATCC 10987, and 11 food isolates showed a good germination response under a range of conditions, whereas four other strains (B. cereus B4085, B4086, B4116, and B4153) belonging to phylogenetic group IIIA showed a very weak germination response even in BHI and TSB media. Germination responses could not be linked to specific (combinations of) GRs, but it was noted that the four group IIIA strains contained pseudogenes or variants of subunit C in their gerL cluster. Additionally, two of those strains (B4086 and B4153) carried pseudogenes in the gerK and gerRI (sub)clusters that possibly affected the functionality of these GRs.
- Bacillus cereus