Inorganic phosphate induces spore morphogenesis and enterotoxin production in the intestinal pathogen Clostridium perfringens

Valeria A. Philippe, Marcelo B. Méndez, I. Hsiu Huang, Lelia M. Orsaria, Mahfuzur R. Sarker, Roberto R. Grau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations


Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) is an important virulence factor for food poisoning and non-food borne gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. Although CPE production is strongly regulated by sporulation, the nature of the signal(s) triggering sporulation remains unknown. Here, we demonstrated that inorganic phosphate (Pi), and not pH, constitutes an environmental signal inducing sporulation and CPE synthesis. In the absence of Pi- supplementation, C. perfringens displayed a spo0A phenotype, i.e., absence of polar septation and DNA partitioning in cells that reached the stationary phase of growth. These results received support from our Northern blot analyses which demonstrated that Pi was able to counteract the inhibitory effect of glucose at the onset of sporulation and induced spo0A expression, indicating that Pi acts as a key signal triggering spore morphogenesis. In addition to being the first study reporting the nature of a physiological signal triggering sporulation in clostridia, these findings have relevance for the development of antisporulation drugs to prevent or treat CPE-mediated GI diseases in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3651-3656
Number of pages6
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


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