Chemical insights into dodecylamine spore lethal germination
Bacterial endospores can withstand common disinfection procedures and extreme environmental adversity. This tenacity for survival, coupled with pathogenicity, makes spores a major threat for the food and medical industries as well as national security. Though unsuitable for practical usage due to their high environmental toxicity, primary ammonium surfactants, dodecylamine (DDA) in particular, are the most potent antispore molecules known. However, over half a century after the initial discovery, the mechanism of DDA spore killing remains largely elusive and antispore compounds with practical utility are still greatly needed. Herein, we propose and provide evidence that DDA bioactivity may lie in its capacity to form hydrophobically stabilized salt bridges with carboxylate anions of the spore cortex, a structure critical in maintaining a low water content in the spore core. More importantly, the proposed mechanism of action was experimentally shown to be useful in guiding the design of potential antispore agents.