Clostridium sordellii outer spore proteins maintain spore structural integrity and promote bacterial clearance from the gastrointestinal tract

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Bacterial spores play an important role in disease initiation, transmission and persistence. In some species, the exosporium forms the outermost structure of the spore and provides the first point of contact between the spore and the environment. The exosporium may also be involved in spore adherence, protection and germination. Clostridium sordellii is a highly lethal, spore forming pathogen that causes soft-tissue infections, enteritis and toxic-shock syndrome. Despite the importance of C. sordellii spores in disease, spore proteins from this bacterium have not been defined or interrogated functionally. In this study, we identified the C. sordellii outer spore proteome and two of the identified proteins, CsA and CsB, were characterised using a genetic and phenotypic approach. Both proteins were essential for the correct formation and positioning of the C. sordellii spore coat and exosporium. The absence of CsA reduced sporulation levels and increased spore sensitivity to heat, sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid. By comparison, CsB was required for normal levels of spore adherence to cervical, but not vaginal, cells, with csB mutant spores having increased adherence properties. The establishment of a mouse infection model of the gastrointestinal tract for C. sordellii allowed the role of CsA and CsB to be interrogated in an infected host. Following the oral administration of spores to mice, the wild-type strain efficiently colonized the gastrointestinal tract, with the peak of bacterial numbers occurring at one day post-infection. Colonization was reduced by two logs at four days post-infection. By comparison, mice infected with the csB mutant did not show a reduction in bacterial numbers. We conclude that C. sordellii outer spore proteins are important for the structural and functional integrity of spores. Furthermore, outer spore proteins are required for wild-type levels of colonization during infection, possibly as a result of the role that the proteins play in spore structure and morphology.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1007004
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2018


  • bacterial spores
  • mouse models
  • costridium difficile
  • animal models of infection
  • gastrointestinal infections
  • gastrointestinal tract
  • mutant strains
  • protein extraction

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