Cereulide and valinomycin are highly similar cyclic dodecadepsipeptides with potassium ionophoric properties. Cereulide, produced by members of the Bacillus cereus group, is known mostly as emetic toxin, and no ecological function has been assigned. A comparative analysis of the antimicrobial activity of valinomycin produced by Streptomyces spp. and cereulide was performed at a pH range of pH 5.5 to pH 9.5, under anaerobic and aerobic conditions. Both compounds display pH-dependent activity against selected Gram-positive bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria innocua, Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus subtilis, and Bacillus cereus ATCC 10987. Notably, B. cereus strain ATCC 14579 and the emetic B. cereus strains F4810/72 and A529 showed reduced sensitivity to both compounds, with the latter two strains displaying full resistance to cereulide. Both compounds showed no activity against the selected Gram-negative bacteria. Antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive bacteria was highest at alkaline pH values, where the membrane potential (ΔΨ) is the main component of the proton motive force (PMF). Furthermore, inhibition of growth was observed in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Determination of the ΔΨ, using the membrane potential probe DiOC2(3) (in the presence of 50 mM KCl) in combination with flow cytometry, demonstrated for the first time the ability of cereulide to dissipate the ΔΨ in sensitive Gram-positive bacteria. The putative role of cereulide production in the ecology of emetic B. cereus is discussed
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