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Formation of Crystalline δ-Endotoxin or Poly-β-Hydroxybutyric Acid Granules by Asporogenous Mutants of Bacillus thuringiensis

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Abstract

Parental strains and asporogenous mutants of Bacillus thuringiensis subspp. kurstaki and aizawai produced high yields of δ-endotoxin on M medium, which contained 330 μg of potassium per ml, but not on ST and ST-a media, each of which contained only 11 μg of potassium per ml. On ST and ST-a media, refractile granules were formed instead. These granules had no insecticidal activity against silkworms and were isolated and identified as poly-β-hydroxybutyric acid. Supplementation of the potassium-deficient ST-a medium with 0.1% KH2PO4 (3.7 mM) led to the formation of crystalline δ-endotoxin. The replacement of KH2PO4 with equimolar amounts of KCl, KNO3, and potassium acetate or an equivalent amount of K2SO4 had a similar effect, whereas the addition of an equimolar amount of NaH2PO4 or NH4H2PO4 did not cause the endotoxin to form. An asporogenous mutant, B. thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki strain 290-1, produced δ-endotoxin on ST-a medium supplemented with 3 mM or more potassium but formed only poly-β-hydroxybutyric acid granules on the media containing ≤1 mM potassium. These results clearly indicate that a certain concentration of potassium is essential for the fermentative production of δ-endotoxin by these isolates of B. thuringiensis. Manganese could not be substituted for potassium. Phosphate ions stimulated poly-β-hydroxybutyric acid formation by strain 290-1. The sporulation of B. thuringiensis and several other Bacillus strains was suppressed on the potassium-deficient ST medium. This suggests that potassium plays an essential role not only in Bacillus cell growth and δ-endotoxin formation but also in sporulation.

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