The reduced in vivo virulence observed from B. weihenstephanensis strains ATM/ATR mutation at 37 °C may be linked to several causes. It could rely on bacterial growth potential and adaptability over a particular temperature range. However, the temperatures used here permit growth of both species, as we demonstrated by broth and agar culturing and by plate counts of bacteria from infected larvae at 37 °C, although
B. weihenstephanensis strains are generally slightly affected at 37 °C (Stenfors Arnesen, 2005; this study; results not shown). More importantly, the difference may rely on differential distribution or production/stability of virulence factors important for G. mellonella infection. Some of the mammalian virulence factors of B. cereus have also been identified to be important for virulence towards G. mellonella, including the regulator PlcR (Salamitou et al., 2000), the metalloproteases InhA2 and InhA3
(Fedhila et al., 2002; Guillemet et al., 2010), the flagellar protein FlhA (Bouillaut et al., 2005) and the iron acquisition molecule IlsA (Daou et al., 2009). The PlcR-regulated pore-forming cytotoxins Nhe, Hbl and CytK are involved in diarrhoeal foodborne BTK inhibitor disease and perhaps also in other infections (Kramer & Gilbert, 1989; Drobniewski, 1993; Ehling-Schulz et al., 2005a; Stenfors Arnesen et al., 2008). Bacillus weihenstephanensis does not seem to differ from B. cereus in the distribution of the genetic apparatus for the cytotoxins, PlcR or its quorum-sensing molecule PapR (Stenfors et al., 2002; Stenfors Arnesen, 2005; Thorsen et al., 2006, 2009). Earlier reports showed the importance of the PlcR regulon in cytotoxicity (Salamitou et al., 2000), and notably suggested Nhe to be the most important factor for B. cereus cytotoxicity and possibly for diarrhoeal disease (Dietrich et al., 2005; Moravek et al., 2006). Furthermore, a B. cereus
strain (NVH 391-98) producing high levels of CytK toxin but low levels of Nhe (Fagerlund et al., 2007) was not virulent to G. mellonella infected orally (Fedhila et al., 2010). The combined low insect virulence and low Nhe production described in this strain strengthens the possibility Bay 11-7085 of Nhe being of importance for insect virulence. Temperature-affected regulation of the production of virulence factors may be altered in psychrotolerant strains as an adaptation to a different niche. This is supported by previous work showing that at 32 °C, the B. cereus strains were all highly cytotoxic, while the B. weihenstephanensis strains were generally less cytotoxic (Stenfors et al., 2002). At 12 °C, cytotoxicity was high for both species; however, a large variation was seen between experiments for B. cereus strains, while B. weihenstephanensis strains were stably cytotoxic (Stenfors Arnesen, 2005).