Severe intoxications caused by the Bacillus cereus emetic toxin cereulide can hardly be prevented due to the ubiquitous distribution and heat resistance of spores and the extreme thermal and chemical stability of cereulide. It would therefore be desirable to inhibit cereulide synthesis during food manufacturing processes or in prepared foods, which are stored under time-temperature abuse conditions. Toward this end, the impacts of three long-chain polyphosphate (polyP) formulations on growth and cereulide production were examined. The inhibition was dependent on the concentration and the type of the polyP blend, indicating that polyPs and not the orthophosphates were effective. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) monitoring at sublethal concentrations revealed that polyPs reduced the transcription of ces nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) genes by 3- to 4-fold along with a significantly reduced toxin production level. At lower concentrations, toxin synthesis was decreased, although the growth rate was not affected. These data indicate a differential effect on toxin synthesis independent of growth inhibition. The inhibition of toxin synthesis in food was also observed. Despite the growth of B. cereus, toxin synthesis was reduced by 70 to 100% in two model food systems (reconstituted infant food and oat milk), which were analyzed with HEp-2 cell culture assays and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)/electrospray ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (ESI-TOF-MS). Accordingly, ces promoter activity was strongly downregulated, as visualized by using a lux-based reporter strain. These data illustrate the potential of polyphosphate formulations to reduce the risk of cereulide synthesis in food and may contribute to targeted hurdle concepts
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