Persister cells are growth-arrested subpopulations that can survive possible fatal environments and revert to wild types after stress removal. Clinically, persistent pathogens play a key role in antibiotic therapy failure, as well as chronic, recurrent, and antibiotic-resilient infections. In general, molecular and physiological research on persister cells formation and compounds against persister cells are much desired. In this study, we firstly demonstrated that the spore forming Gram-positive model organism Bacillus subtilis
can be used to generate persister cells during exposure to antimicrobial compounds. Interestingly, instead of exhibiting a unified antibiotic tolerance profile, different number of persister cells and spores were quantified in various stress conditions. qPCR results also indicated that differential stress responses are related to persister formation in various environmental conditions. We propose, for the first time to the best of our knowledge, an effective method to isolate B. subtilis
persister cells from a population using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), which makes analyzing persister populations feasible. Finally, we show that alpha-helical cationic antimicrobial peptides SAAP-148 and TC-19, derived from human cathelicidin LL-37 and human thrombocidin-1, respectively, have high efficiency against both B. subtilis
vegetative cells and persisters, causing membrane permeability and fluidity alteration. In addition, we confirm that in contrast to persister cells, dormant B. subtilis
spores are not susceptible to the antimicrobial peptides.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited