Multiple roads lead to Rome: unique morphology and chemistry of endospores, exospores, myxospores, cysts and akinetes in bacteria.

Corona Ramírez, Andrea; Lee, Kang Soo; Odriozola, Adolfo; Kaminek, Marek; Stocker, Roman; Zuber, Benoît; Junier, Pilar (2023). Multiple roads lead to Rome: unique morphology and chemistry of endospores, exospores, myxospores, cysts and akinetes in bacteria. Microbiology, 169(2) Microbiology Society 10.1099/mic.0.001299

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The production of specialized resting cells is a remarkable survival strategy developed by many organisms to withstand unfavourable environmental factors such as nutrient depletion or other changes in abiotic and/or biotic conditions. Five bacterial taxa are recognized to form specialized resting cells: Firmicutes, forming endospores; Actinobacteria, forming exospores; Cyanobacteria, forming akinetes; the δ-Proteobacterial order Myxococcales, forming myxospores; and Azotobacteraceae, forming cysts. All these specialized resting cells are characterized by low-to-absent metabolic activity and higher resistance to environmental stress (desiccation, heat, starvation, etc.) when compared to vegetative cells. Given their similarity in function, we tested the potential existence of a universal morpho-chemical marker for identifying these specialized resting cells. After the production of endospores, exospores, akinetes and cysts in model organisms, we performed the first cross-species morphological and chemical comparison of bacterial sporulation. Cryo-electron microscopy of vitreous sections (CEMOVIS) was used to describe near-native morphology of the resting cells in comparison to the morphology of their respective vegetative cells. Resting cells shared a thicker cell envelope as their only common morphological feature. The chemical composition of the different specialized resting cells at the single-cell level was investigated using confocal Raman microspectroscopy. Our results show that the different specialized cells do not share a common chemical signature, but rather each group has a unique signature with a variable conservation of the signature of the vegetative cells. Additionally, we present the validation of Raman signatures associated with calcium dipicolinic acid (CaDPA) and their variation across individual cells to develop specific sorting thresholds for the isolation of endospores. This provides a proof of concept of the feasibility of isolating bacterial spores using a Raman-activated cell-sorting platform. This cross-species comparison and the current knowledge of genetic pathways inducing the formation of the resting cells highlights the complexity of this convergent evolutionary strategy promoting bacterial survival.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Anatomy

UniBE Contributor:

Odriozola Quesada, Adolfo, Kaminek, Marek, Zuber, Benoît


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Microbiology Society




Pubmed Import

Date Deposited:

23 Feb 2023 13:50

Last Modified:

23 Feb 2023 23:27

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

CEMOVIS Raman microspectroscopy akinete calcium dipicolinic acid (CaDPA) cyst endospore exospore myxospore




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