Phenotypic and Transcriptomic Analyses of Mildly and Severely Salt-Stressed Bacillus cereus ATCC 14579 Cells

H.M.W. den Besten, J.M. Mols, R. Moezelaar, M.H. Zwietering, T. Abee

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Bacteria are able to cope with the challenges of a sudden increase in salinity by activating adaptation mechanisms. In this study, exponentially growing cells of the pathogen Bacillus cereus ATCC 14579 were exposed to both mild (2.5% [wt/vol] NaCl) and severe (5% [wt/vol] NaCl) salt stress conditions. B. cereus continued to grow at a slightly reduced growth rate when it was shifted to mild salt stress conditions. Exposure to severe salt stress resulted in a lag period, and after 60 min growth had resumed, with cells displaying a filamentous morphology. Whole-genome expression analyses of cells exposed to 2.5% salt stress revealed that the expression of these cells overlapped with the expression of cells exposed to 5% salt stress, suggesting that the corresponding genes were involved in a general salt stress response. Upregulation of osmoprotectant, Na+/H+, and di- and tripeptide transporters and activation of an oxidative stress response were noticeable aspects of the general salt stress transcriptome response. Activation of this response may confer cross-protection against other stresses, and indeed, increased resistance to heat and hydrogen peroxide could be demonstrated after preexposure to salt. A temporal shift between the transcriptome response and several phenotypic responses of severely salt-stressed cells was observed. After resumption of growth, these cells showed cellular filamentation, reduced chemotaxis, increased catalase activity, and optimal oxidative stress resistance, which corresponded to the transcriptome response displayed in the initial lag period. The linkage of transcriptomes and phenotypic characteristics can contribute to a better understanding of cellular stress adaptation strategies and possible cross-protection mechanisms
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4111-4119
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • osmoprotectant glycine betaine
  • osmolyte transporters betl
  • escherichia-coli
  • listeria-monocytogenes
  • hydrogen-peroxide
  • compatible solutes
  • gene-expression
  • high-salinity
  • subtilis
  • heat


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