Document Type



BACKGROUND: Clostridium perfringens type A food poisoning is caused by enterotoxigenic C. perfringens type A isolates that typically possess high spore heat-resistance. The molecular basis for C. perfringens spore heat-resistance remains unknown. In the current study, we investigated the role of small, acid-soluble spore proteins (SASPs) in heat-resistance of spores produced by C. perfringens food poisoning isolates.

RESULTS: Our current study demonstrated the presence of all three SASP-encoding genes (ssp1, 2 and 3) in five surveyed C. perfringens clinical food poisoning isolates. beta-Glucuronidase assay showed that these ssp genes are expressed specifically during sporulation. Consistent with these expression results, our study also demonstrated the production of SASPs by C. perfringens food poisoning isolates. When the heat sensitivities of spores produced by a ssp3 knock-out mutant of a C. perfringens food poisoning isolate was compared with that of spores of the wild-type strain, spores of the ssp3 mutant were found to exhibit a lower decimal reduction value (D value) at 100 degrees C than exhibited by the spores of wild-type strain. This effect was restored by complementing the ssp3 mutant with a recombinant plasmid carrying wild-type ssp3, suggesting that the observed differences in D values between spores of wild-type versus ssp3 mutant was due to the specific inactivation of ssp3. Furthermore, our DNA protection assay demonstrated that C. perfringens SASPs can protect DNA from DNase I digestion.

CONCLUSION: The results from our current study provide evidences that SASPs produced by C. perfringens food poisoning isolates play a role in protecting their spores from heat-damage, which is highly significant and relevant from a food safety perspective. Further detailed studies on mechanism of action of SASPs from C. perfringens should help in understanding the mechanism of protection of C. perfringens spores from heat-damage.


BMC Microbiology 2006, 6:50 (8 June 2006)