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Open Access Research article

Indole and 3-indolylacetonitrile inhibit spore maturation in Paenibacillus alvei

Yong-Guy Kim, Jin-Hyung Lee, Moo Hwan Cho and Jintae Lee*

Author Affiliations

School of Chemical Engineering, Yeungnam University, Gyeongsan, Gyeonsangbuk-do 712-749, Korea

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:119  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-119

Published: 27 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Bacteria use diverse signaling molecules to ensure the survival of the species in environmental niches. A variety of both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria produce large quantities of indole that functions as an intercellular signal controlling diverse aspects of bacterial physiology.

Results

In this study, we sought a novel role of indole in a Gram-positive bacteria Paenibacillus alvei that can produce extracellular indole at a concentration of up to 300 μM in the stationary phase in Luria-Bertani medium. Unlike previous studies, our data show that the production of indole in P. alvei is strictly controlled by catabolite repression since the addition of glucose and glycerol completely turns off the indole production. The addition of exogenous indole markedly inhibits the heat resistance of P. alvei without affecting cell growth. Observation of cell morphology with electron microscopy shows that indole inhibits the development of spore coats and cortex in P. alvei. As a result of the immature spore formation of P. alvei, indole also decreases P. alvei survival when exposed to antibiotics, low pH, and ethanol. Additionally, indole derivatives also influence the heat resistance; for example, a plant auxin, 3-indolylacetonitrile dramatically (2900-fold) decreased the heat resistance of P. alvei, while another auxin 3-indoleacetic acid had a less significant influence on the heat resistance of P. alvei.

Conclusions

Together, our results demonstrate that indole and plant auxin 3-indolylacetonitrile inhibit spore maturation of P. alvei and that 3-indolylacetonitrile presents an opportunity for the control of heat and antimicrobial resistant spores of Gram-positive bacteria.