Bacillus subtilis spore suspensions were subjected to pressure treatments at 100 and 600 MPa at 40 degreesC and over a pH range from 3 to 8. inactivation of spores under these conditions was maximally 80% and was not increased at low pH. However, higher levels of inactivation were obtained when spores were first pressure treated at neutral pH and then exposed for 1 h to low pH. This large difference in inactivation could be explained by the finding that pressure-induced spore germination, which is known to occur at neutral pH, was inhibited at low pH ( < 5). Pressure treatment at low pH made spores more sensitive to heat inactivation, suggesting that demineralized H-spores had been formed. Changes in spore core hydration and pH upon exposure of spores at low pH were studied in a more direct way using green fluorescent protein expressed in recombinant B. subtilis as a reporter protein, and it was confirmed that pressure and heat increase spore permeability for protons. Based on these results, the potential of low temperature, high pressure processes for spore inactivation in acid products is discussed. <(c)> 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.