New York University Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

Biologists Discover An Extra Layer of Protection for Bacterial Spores

May 6, 2010

Bacterial spores, the most resistant organisms on earth, carry an extra coating of protection previously undetected, a team of microbiologists reports in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology. Their findings offer additional insight into why spores of the bacteria that cause botulism, tetanus, and anthrax survive methods to eradicate them.

The study was conducted by researchers at New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, Loyola (Ill.) University’s Medical Center, and Princeton University’s Department of Molecular Biology.

The researchers studied the spores of a non-pathogenic bacterium, Bacillus subtilis, which is commonly found in soil. Although non-pathogenic, B. subtilis spores exhibit many of the same structural features of the spore-forming pathogens. In this study, the scientists examined the proteins that comprise spores’ protective layers. Previous research has shown that 70 different proteins make up these layers. Less understood is how these proteins interact to form the spores’ protective coats.

To do this, the researchers examined coat formation of both normal and mutant spores. In the latter case, they removed genes for selected coat proteins, allowing them to determine which proteins were necessary in—and extraneous to—the formation of the spores’ coats.

To observe proteins’ behavior in living cells, the researchers fused the genes encoding the spores’ coat proteins to a marker, a Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). This procedure allowed them to monitor how the proteins localized to form spores’ protective coats. A combination of fluorescence microscopy experiments and high-resolution image analysis enabled the researchers to overcome a theoretical limitation of light microscopy, pinpoint the location of the spores’ coat proteins with a high degree of precision, and build a map of the spore coat. These experiments suggested the existence of a new outermost layer of the spore coat.  They were then able to confirm the existence of this new layer using electron microscopy.

The researchers named this coat layer, located on the spores’ outer surface, the “spore crust.”  While it has not yet been confirmed, it is possible that the spore crust is a common feature of all spore-forming bacteria, such as the botulism, tetanus, and anthrax pathogens.

The research was funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
NYUToday-feature, Arts and Science, Research, Faculty

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: James Devitt | (212) 998-6808

Biologists Discover An Extra Layer of Protection for Bacterial Spores

A spore from the bacterium Bacillus subtilis reveals bands, or protective coats, surrounding the spore’s center. The outer-most dark layer is a previously undetected extra coating of protection, which biologists have labeled the “spore crust.” Image courtesy of Current Biology (Eichenberger et al., May 25, 2010 issue)

Search News

NYU In the News

NYU Received a Record Number of Applications

Capital New York reported NYU received a record 60,322 applications for the class of 2019, an increase of about 15 percent since last year.

NYU Students Help City Crack Down on Hookah Bars

Capital New York reported that NYU students helped New York City crack down on hookah bars that illegally include tobacco in their hookahs:

Rudin Center Study Says Mass Transit Helps Economic Mobility

The Wall Street Journal wrote about a report by Wagner’s Rudin Center that showed that mass transit could be more important than education in determining economic mobility.

Brennan Center Report Says Campaign Spending Has Jumped

Frontline did a piece about a report by the Brennan Center for Justice that said that campaign spending by outside groups has more than doubled in the last five years.

NYU’s Dorms Ranked Among the Best in the Nation ranked NYU’s student residences third in the country in its list of best college dorms.


NYU Footer