From cereus to anthrax and back again: The role of the PlcR regulator in the “cross-over” strain Bacillus cereus G9241
In our recent paper “From cereus to anthrax and back again: The role of the PlcR regulator in the “cross-over” strain Bacillus cereus G9241” we have investigated how a normally low risk Bacillus cereus strain has evolved to mimic Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of the highly feared lethal anthrax infection. The B. cereus G9241 strain is one of several relatively recent isolates that are termed “anthrax cross over strains” that intriguingly seem to preferentially infect metal workers in the USA (welders / millers). These strains are of particular concern as, unlike B. anthracis proper, they can switch between a form that can survive and replicate in the environment using invertebrate hosts and the more lethal mammalian infective anthrax like form. B. anthracis must pass from mammalian host to mammalian host as a spore form thus somewhat limiting its spread. This is due to a loss of function mutation in a key regulator protein named PlcR, which in all other B. cereus sensu lato group strains allows for survival outside of a mammalian host. Our work has identified the specific mechanism by which G9241 can switch on and off the PlcR regulation endowing it with a “Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde” like life cycle. This work was a culmination of a Marie Curie fellow, 3 PhD students and one postdoc and was supported by MoD Porton Down DSTL funding and advice, for which we are very grateful.
Read the paper here.