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Bacillus cereus is a food-borne human pathogen and food spoilage organism. Spores and vegetative cells of B. cereus can be found almost everywhere and therefore often end up in food processing equipment and food products. To remove spores and vegetative cells from food or equipment, harsh treatments such as high temperatures are applied. The heat stress response of B. cereus and other organisms has been studied and it has been shown that reactive oxygen species may be involved in inactivating the bacterial cells. Using a novel approach with the fluorescent probe MitoSOX, the formation of superoxide in B. cereus cells upon exposure to heat has been confirmed. MitoSOX can be used in combination with other probes, including, SYTOX green, CYTO 9, and CFDA, showing superoxide formation in combination with damaged cell membranes, intact cell membranes, and esterase activity in cells with intact membranes, respectively. MitoSOX in combination with flow cytometry-assisted sorting showed three distinct populations, a low fluorescent population that was still viable, a highly fluorescent population that could not be recovered on agar plates, and a low fluorescent non-viable population that appeared after prolonged exposure to heat. This third population may include dead cells where MitoSOX binds to DNA without reacting with superoxide. Superoxide formation during exposure to lethal temperatures by B. cereus shows that superoxide plays a role in bacterial cell death and its generation may thus contribute to the efficiency of food preservation conditions. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Maarten Mols, Mara Ceragioli, Tjakko Abee. Heat stress leads to superoxide formation in Bacillus cereus detected using the fluorescent probe MitoSOX. International journal of food microbiology. 2011 Nov 15;151(1):119-22

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PMID: 21872960

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