Background: Heat and cold shock response are normally considered as independent phenomena. A small amount of evidence suggests instead that interactions may exist between them in two Lactococcus strains. Results: We show the occurrence of molecular relationships between the mechanisms of cold and heat adaptations in Streptococcus thermophilus, a lactic acid bacterium widely used in dairy fermentation, where it undergoes both types of stress. We observed that cryotolerance is increased when cells are pre-incubated at high temperature. In addition, the production of a protein, identified as ClpL, a member of the heat-shock ATPase family Clp A/B, is induced at both high and low temperature. A knock-out clpL mutant is deficient in both heat and cold tolerance. However lack of production of this protein does not abolish the positive effect of heat pretreatment towards cryotolerance. Conclusion: Dual induction of ClpL by cold and heat exposure of cells and reduced tolerance to both temperature shocks in a clpL mutant indicates that the two stress responses are correlated in S. thermophilus. However this protein is not responsible by itself for cryotolerance of cells pre-treated at high temperature, indicating that ClpL is necessary for the two phenomena, but does not account by itself for the relationships between them.
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