Germination of endospores of involves the activities of several germination-specific lytic enzymes, including glucosaminidase and lytic transglycosylase. Another non-hydrolytic activity, likely to be due to an epimerase, also occurs. The effect of pH on enzyme activities and the overall germination rate was measured. Optimal germination occurred between pH 7–9; however, optimum glucosaminidase and epimerase activities were noted at pH 5. Conversely, the lytic transglycosylase activity was greatest at pH 8. Treatment of spores (15 min) with heat (90 °C) or NaOH (025 M) led to impaired cortex hydrolysis/modification, but with <20% loss in viability. Analysis of muropeptides in the germination exudate revealed a reduction of >85% in glucosaminidase and epimerase products, when compared to untreated spores. Conversely, lytic transglycosylase activity was increased by alkali or heat treatment, which was possibly due to increased substrate availability. FB101 () spores, which lack lytic transglycosylase activity, showed 90-fold greater loss in viability than the wild-type after 1 h at 90 °C. Similarly, 97% of FB101 () spores were unable to form a colony on nutrient agar after 130 min exposure to 025 M NaOH at 4 °C, whereas the wild-type was unaffected. This demonstrates the crucial role of the lytic transglycosylase in cortex hydrolysis of damaged spores. The respective targets of heat and alkali in spores and their role during germination are discussed.


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