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Cell wall as a target for bacteria inactivation by pulsed electric fields

Abstract : The integrity and morphology of bacteria is sustained by the cell wall, the target of the main microbial inactivation processes. One promising approach to inactivation is based on the use of pulsed electric fields (PEF). The current dogma is that irreversible cell membrane electro-permeabilisation causes the death of the bacteria. However, the actual effect on the cell-wall architecture has been poorly explored. Here we combine atomic force microscopy and electron microscopy to study the cell-wall organization of living Bacillus pumilus bacteria at the nanoscale. For vegetative bacteria, exposure to PEF led to structural disorganization correlated with morphological and mechanical alterations of the cell wall. For spores, PEF exposure led to the partial destruction of coat protein nanostructures, associated with internal alterations of cortex and core. Our findings reveal for the first time that the cell wall and coat architecture are directly involved in the electro-eradication of bacteria.
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Flavien Pillet, Cécile Formosa-Dague, Houda Baaziz, Etienne Dague, Marie-Pierre Rols. Cell wall as a target for bacteria inactivation by pulsed electric fields. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2016, 6, pp.19778. ⟨10.1038/srep19778⟩. ⟨hal-01552815⟩

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