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Identification of a novel regulator of Clostridioides difficile cortex formation

By Megan H Touchette, Hector Benito de la Puebla, Carolina Alves Feliciano, Benjamin Tanenbaum, Monica Schenone, Steven A Carr, Aimee Shen

Posted 03 Mar 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.03.433760

Clostridioides difficile is a leading cause of healthcare-associated infections worldwide. C. difficile infections are transmitted by its metabolically dormant, aerotolerant spore form. Functional spore formation depends on the assembly of two protective layers: a thick layer of modified peptidoglycan known as the cortex layer and a multilayered proteinaceous meshwork known as the coat. We previously identified two spore morphogenetic proteins, SpoIVA and SipL, that are essential for recruiting coat proteins to the developing forespore and making functional spores. While SpoIVA and SipL directly interact, the identities of the proteins they recruit to the forespore remained unknown. We used mass spectrometry-based affinity proteomics to identify proteins that interact with the SpoIVA-SipL complex. These analyses identified the Peptostreptococcaceae family-specific, sporulation-induced bitopic membrane protein CD3457 (renamed SpoVQ) as a protein that interacts with SipL and SpoIVA. Loss of SpoVQ decreased heat-resistant spore formation by [~]5-fold and reduced cortex thickness[~]2-fold; the thinner cortex layer of {Delta}spoVQ spores correlated with higher levels of spontaneous germination (i.e., in the absence of germinant). Notably, loss of SpoVQ in either spoIVA or sipL mutants prevented cortex synthesis altogether and greatly impaired the localization of a SipL-mCherry fusion protein around the forespore. Thus, SpoVQ is a novel regulator of C. difficile cortex synthesis that appears to link cortex and coat formation. The identification of SpoVQ as a spore morphogenetic protein further highlights how Peptostreptococcaceae family-specific mechanisms control spore formation in C. difficile. ImportanceThe Centers for Disease Control has designated Clostridioides difficile as an urgent threat because of its intrinsic antibiotic resistance. C. difficile persists in the presence of antibiotics in part because it makes metabolically dormant spores. While recent work has shown that preventing the formation of infectious spores can reduce C. difficile disease recurrence, more selective anti-sporulation therapies are needed. The identification of spore morphogenetic factors specific to C. difficile would facilitate the development of such therapies. In this study, we identified SpoVQ (CD3457) as a spore morphogenetic protein specific to the Peptostreptococcaceae family that regulates the formation of C. difficiles protective spore cortex layer. SpoVQ acts in concert with the known spore coat morphogenetic factors, SpoIVA and SipL, to link formation of the protective coat and cortex layers. These data reveal a novel pathway that could be targeted to prevent the formation of infectious C. difficile spores.

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