Caister Academic Press

CIMB Abstract

Curr. Issues Mol. Biol. (2010) 12: 147-158.

The Ger Receptor Family from Sporulating Bacteria

Christian Ross and Ernesto Abel-Santos

Bacterial spores are specialized cells that are exceptionally resistant to environmental stress. Spores convert back to actively growing cells, a process called germination, upon nutrient detection. The most common, initial step in the germination process is the recognition of small molecule germinants by germination (Ger) receptors. Ger receptors are inner-membrane heterocomplexes formed by three distinct protein products, the A-, B-, and C-subunits. In this review, we discuss and contrast published reports on representative Ger receptors from different Bacilli and Clostridia. We also present evidence for unrecognized germination pathways independent of Ger receptors. We further emphasize the function of L-alanine as a universal germinant. We also comment on biochemical aspects of germinant recognition and interaction between Ger receptor proteins. We propose that there are six general strategies used by Bacilli and Clostridia to integrate multiple germination signals. The use of different germinant recognition strategies results in germination response flexibility. Consequently, sporulating bacterial species that use the same biomolecules as germination signals can have different germination profiles. Finally, we discuss future directions for understanding the function of Ger receptors.

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