The simultaneous nutrient germination of hundreds of individual wild-type spores of three Bacillus species and a number of Bacillus subtilis strains has been measured by two new methods, and rates of release of the great majority of the large pool of dipicolinic acid (DPA) from individual spores of B. subtilis strains has been measured by Raman spectroscopy with laser tweezers. The results from these analyses and published data have allowed a number of significant conclusions about the germination of spores of Bacillus species as follows. (i) The time needed for release of the great majority of a Bacillus spore's DPA once rapid DPA release had begun (ΔTrelease) during nutrient germination was independent of the concentration of nutrient germinant used, the level of the germinant receptors (GRs) that recognize nutrient germinants used and heat activation prior to germination. Values for ΔTrelease were generally 0.5 to 3 min at 25 to 37°C for individual wild-type spores. (ii) Despite the conclusion above, germination of individual spores in populations was very heterogeneous, with some spores in wild-type populations completing germination ≥15-fold slower than others. (iii) The major factor in the heterogeneity in germination of individual spores in populations was the highly variable lag time, Tlag, between mixing spores with nutrient germinants and the beginning of ΔTrelease. (iv) A number of factors decrease spores' Tlag values including heat activation, increased levels of GRs/spore, and higher levels of nutrient germinants. These latter factors appear to affect the level of activated GRs/spore during nutrient germination. (v) The conclusions above lead to the simple prediction that a major factor causing heterogeneity in Bacillus spore germination is the number of functional GRs in individual spores, a number that presumably varies significantly between spores in populations
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