Studies Conflict on Spores’ Need for Protein Synthesis

Different assays lead to opposing conclusions on bacterial spores’ requirements during germination.

kerry grens
Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

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Dec 1, 2016

Germination: Spores of Bacillus subtilis incubated in germination solution for 30 minutes turn dark. The three bright spores are still dormant. GEORGE KORZA

EDITOR’S CHOICE IN MICROBIOLOGY

The Paper
G. Korza et al., “Changes in Bacillus spore small molecules, rRNA, germination and outgrowth after extended sub-lethal exposure to various temperatures: Evidence that protein synthesis is not essential for spore germination,” J Bacteriol, doi:10.1128/JB.00583-16, 2016.

The History
For decades, scientists considered protein synthesis nonessential for the transition of dormant bacterial spores into active cells—a process known as germination. But a series of experiments from Sigal Ben-Yehuda’s lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in recent years suggested otherwise. Spores with disrupted translation didn’t germinate, the group found, and with tagged amino acids, “we could even identify proteins synthesized during this period [of germination],” Ben-Yehuda says.

Second Test
After seeing Ben-Yehuda’s results, Peter Setlow of UConn Health in Farmington, Connecticut,...