Characterization of the sporulation initiation pathway of Clostridium difficile and its role in toxin production
Baines, Simon D.
Lewis, Richard J.
Wilcox, M. H.
Clostridium difficile is responsible for significant mortality and morbidity in the hospitalized elderly. C. difficile spores are infectious and are a major factor contributing to nosocomial transmission. The Spo0A response regulator is the master regulator for sporulation initiation and can influence many other cellular processes. Using the ClosTron gene knockout system, we inactivated genes encoding Spo0A and a putative sporulation-associated sensor histidine kinase in C. difficile. Inactivation of spo0A resulted in an asporogeneous phenotype, whereas inactivation of the kinase reduced C. difficile sporulation capacity by 3.5-fold, suggesting that this kinase also has a role in sporulation initiation. Furthermore, inactivation of either spo0A or the kinase resulted in a marked defect in C. difficile toxin production. Therefore, Spo0A and the signaling pathway that modulates its activity appear to be involved in regulation of toxin synthesis in C. difficile. In addition, Spo0A was directly phosphorylated by a putative sporulation-associated kinase, supporting the hypothesis that sporulation initiation in C. difficile is controlled by a two-component signal transduction system rather than a multicomponent phosphorelay. The implications of these findings for C. difficile sporulation, virulence, and transmission are discussed.