1 March 2012
In certain conditions Campylobacter jejuni cells are capable of changing their cell shape from a typically spiral to a coccoid form (CF). By similarity to other bacteria, the latter was initially considered to be a viable but non-culturable form capable of survival in unfavourable conditions. However, subsequent studies with C. jejuni and closely related bacteria Helicobacter pylori suggested that CF represents a non-viable, degenerative form. Until now, the issue on whether the CF of C. jejuni is viable and infective is highly controversial. Despite some preliminary experiments on characterization of CF cells, neither biochemical mechanisms nor genetic determinants involved in C. jejuni cell shape changes have been characterized. In this review, we highlight known molecular mechanisms and genes involved in CF formation in other bacteria. Since orthologous genes are also present in C. jejuni, we suggest that CF formation in these bacteria is also a regulated and genetically determined process. A possible significance of CF in the lifestyle of this important bacterial pathogen is discussed.