The spore coat

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Spores of Clostridiales and Bacillales are encased in a complex series of concentric shells that provide protection, facilitate germination, and mediate interactions with the environment. Analysis of diverse spore-forming species by thin-section transmission electron microscopy reveals that the number and morphology of these encasing shells vary greatly. In some species, they appear to be composed of a small number of discrete layers. In other species, they can comprise multiple, morphologically complex layers. In addition, spore surfaces can possess elaborate appendages. For all their variability, there is a consistent architecture to the layers encasing the spore. A hallmark of all Clostridiales and Bacillales spores is the cortex, a layer made of peptidoglycan. In close association with the cortex, all species examined possess, at a minimum, a series of proteinaceous layers, called the coat. In some species, including Bacillus subtilis, only the coat is present. In other species, including Bacillus anthracis, an additional layer, called the exosporium, surrounds the coat. Our goals here are to review the present understanding of the structure, composition, assembly, and functions of the coat, primarily in the model organism B. subtilis, but also in the small but growing number of other spore-forming species where new data are showing that there is much to be learned beyond the relatively well-developed basis of knowledge in B. subtilis. To help summarize this large field and define future directions for research, we will focus on key findings in recent years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberTBS-0023-2016
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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