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The Bacillus cereus sensu lato group consists of several closely related species, including B. anthracis, B. cereus sensu stricto, and B. thuringiensis. Spores of these pathogenic bacteria are commonly found in the soil but evidence suggests that they are unable to grow in such a natural environment in the absence of nutrient input. Amoebas have been reported to be an amplifier for several species of pathogenic bacteria and their potential involvement to explain the large amount of B. thuringiensis and B. cereus spores in soil has been frequently proposed. Here, we studied the fate of Bacillus and amoebas when cultured together. We show that the virulence factors produced by B. thuringiensis and B. cereus do not affect the amoeba Acanthamoeba castellanii, which, on the contrary, can phagocytose and effectively digest vegetative Bacillus cells to grow and prevent the formation of cysts. Bacterial spores can germinate in the amoeba environment and the vegetative cells can then form chains or aggregates that appear to be less efficiently phagocyted by the amoeba. The use of transcriptional fusions between fluorescent reporter genes and stationary phase- and sporulation-specific promoters showed that the sporulation process occurs more efficiently in the presence of amoebas than in their absence. Moreover, our results showed the amoeba environment to promote spore germination and allow the bacteria to complete their developmental cycle. Overall, this study suggests that the amoeba-Bacillus interaction creates a virtuous circle in which each protagonist helps the other to develop. © 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


Haibo Chen, Emilie Verplaetse, Tania Jauslin, Pierre Cosson, Leyla Slamti, Didier Lereclus. The Fate of Bacteria of the Bacillus cereus Group in the Amoeba Environment. Microbial ecology. 2022 May;83(4):1088-1104

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PMID: 34342700

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