Identification of a Novel Lipoprotein Regulator of Clostridium difficile Spore Germination

PLoS Pathogens
Kelly A FimlaidAimee Shen


Clostridium difficile is a Gram-positive spore-forming pathogen and a leading cause of nosocomial diarrhea. C. difficile infections are transmitted when ingested spores germinate in the gastrointestinal tract and transform into vegetative cells. Germination begins when the germinant receptor CspC detects bile salts in the gut. CspC is a subtilisin-like serine pseudoprotease that activates the related CspB serine protease through an unknown mechanism. Activated CspB cleaves the pro-SleC zymogen, which allows the activated SleC cortex hydrolase to degrade the protective cortex layer. While these regulators are essential for C. difficile spores to outgrow and form toxin-secreting vegetative cells, the mechanisms controlling their function have only been partially characterized. In this study, we identify the lipoprotein GerS as a novel regulator of C. difficile spore germination using targeted mutagenesis. A gerS mutant has a severe germination defect and fails to degrade cortex even though it processes SleC at wildtype levels. Using complementation analyses, we demonstrate that GerS secretion, but not lipidation, is necessary for GerS to activate SleC. Importantly, loss of GerS attenuates the virulence of C. difficile in a hamste...Continue Reading


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