Journal of bacteriology

The dlt operon of Bacillus cereus is required for resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides and for virulence in insects.

PMID 19767427


The dlt operon encodes proteins that alanylate teichoic acids, the major components of cell walls of gram-positive bacteria. This generates a net positive charge on bacterial cell walls, repulsing positively charged molecules and conferring resistance to animal and human cationic antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in gram-positive pathogenic bacteria. AMPs damage the bacterial membrane and are the most effective components of the humoral immune response against bacteria. We investigated the role of the dlt operon in insect virulence by inactivating this operon in Bacillus cereus, which is both an opportunistic human pathogen and an insect pathogen. The Delta dlt(Bc) mutant displayed several morphological alterations but grew at a rate similar to that for the wild-type strain. This mutant was less resistant to protamine and several bacterial cationic AMPs, such as nisin, polymyxin B, and colistin, in vitro. It was also less resistant to molecules from the insect humoral immune system, lysozyme, and cationic AMP cecropin B from Spodoptera frugiperda. Delta dlt(Bc) was as pathogenic as the wild-type strain in oral infections of Galleria mellonella but much less virulent when injected into the hemocoels of G. mellonella and Spodoptera littoralis. We detected the dlt operon in three gram-negative genera: Erwinia (Erwinia carotovora), Bordetella (Bordetella pertussis, Bordetella parapertussis, and Bordetella bronchiseptica), and Photorhabdus (the entomopathogenic bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens TT01, the dlt operon of which did not restore cationic AMP resistance in Delta dlt(Bc)). We suggest that the dlt operon protects B. cereus against insect humoral immune mediators, including hemolymph cationic AMPs, and may be critical for the establishment of lethal septicemia in insects and in nosocomial infections in humans.

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C1796 Cecropin B, ≥97% (HPLC), powder