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Adsorption of β-galactosidase of Alicyclobacillus acidocaldarius on wild type and mutants spores of Bacillus subtilis

Teja Sirec1, Andrea Strazzulli2, Rachele Isticato1, Maurilio De Felice1, Marco Moracci2 and Ezio Ricca1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Structural and Functional Biology, Federico II University of Naples, Naples, Italy

2 Institute of Protein Biochemistry, C.N.R., Naples, Italy

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Microbial Cell Factories 2012, 11:100  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-100

Published: 3 August 2012



The Bacillus subtilis spore has long been used as a surface display system with potential applications in a variety of fields ranging from mucosal vaccine delivery, bioremediation and biocatalyst development. More recently, a non-recombinant approach of spore display has been proposed and heterologous proteins adsorbed on the spore surface. We used the well-characterized β-galactosidase from the thermoacidophilic bacterium Alicyclobacillus acidocaldarius as a model to study enzyme adsorption, to analyze whether and how spore-adsorption affects the properties of the enzyme and to improve the efficiency of the process.


We report that purified β-galactosidase molecules were adsorbed to purified spores of a wild type strain of B. subtilis retaining ca. 50% of their enzymatic activity. Optimal pH and temperature of the enzyme were not altered by the presence of the spore, that protected the adsorbed β-galactosidase from exposure to acidic pH conditions. A collection of mutant strains of B. subtilis lacking a single or several spore coat proteins was compared to the isogenic parental strain for the adsorption efficiency. Mutants with an altered outermost spore layer (crust) were able to adsorb 60-80% of the enzyme, while mutants with a severely altered or totally lacking outer coat adsorbed 100% of the β-galactosidase molecules present in the adsorption reaction.


Our results indicate that the spore surface structures, the crust and the outer coat layer, have an negative effect on the adhesion of the β-galactosidase. Electrostatic forces, previously suggested as main determinants of spore adsorption, do not seem to play an essential role in the spore-β-galactosidase interaction. The analysis of mutants with altered spore surface has shown that the process of spore adsorption can be improved and has suggested that such improvement has to be based on a better understanding of the spore surface structure. Although the molecular details of spore adsorption have not been fully elucidated, the efficiency of the process and the pH-stability of the adsorbed molecules, together with the well documented robustness and safety of spores of B. subtilis, propose the spore as a novel, non-recombinant system for enzyme display.