In this study, the impact of a range of organic acids and structurally similar alcohols with three to six carbon backbones and increasing lipophilic character, were tested on the germination behavior of B. cereus ATCC 14579 spores. This approach allowed substantiating whether the effectivity of the various compounds was largely dictated by membrane interference or a classic weak acid acidification effect. The octanol–water partition coefficient (log Poct/water) ranges from 0.25/0.33 to 2.03/1.96 for propanol/undissociated propionic acid and hexanol/undissociated hexanoic acid, respectively. Performance of germination assays at neutral (pH7) and acidic conditions (pH5.5) allowed for a comparative analysis of the action of dissociated versus undissociated acids, and the presumed pH-independent effect of the corresponding alcohols. Germination assays, based on both continuously measured optical density and time-based plating experiments, and microscopic observations demonstrated the correlation between the lipophilic character of the selected compounds and their inhibiting effect on spore germination. Real-time fluorescence based assays showed that membrane integrity in dormant spores was maintained in the presence of the tested inhibitors. Lowering the critical concentration of inhibitors by a one-step washing procedure resulted in the onset of nutrient-induced germination, indicating the reversible nature of the inhibition process. Furthermore, blocking of nutrient-induced germination in the presence of inhibitory concentrations of selected lipophilic acids and corresponding alcohols was by-passed upon addition of Ca-dipicolinic acid, pointing to loss of signaling capacity in germinant receptor-mediated germination activity. These findings show that lipophilicity is an important determinant for the ability of the selected acids and corresponding alcohols to accumulate in the spore inner membrane and their ability to act as a germination-inhibitor.
- inner membrane
- sorbic acid