Spores of Clostridium perfringens possess high heat resistance, and when these spores germinate and return to active growth, they can cause gastrointestinal disease. Work with Bacillus subtilis has shown that the spore's dipicolinic acid (DPA) level can markedly influence both spore germination and resistance and that the proteins encoded by the spoVA operon are essential for DPA uptake by the developing spore during sporulation. We now find that proteins encoded by the spoVA operon are also essential for the uptake of Ca(2+) and DPA into the developing spore during C. perfringens sporulation. Spores of a spoVA mutant had little, if any, Ca(2+) and DPA, and their core water content was approximately twofold higher than that of wild-type spores. These DPA-less spores did not germinate spontaneously, as DPA-less B. subtilis spores do. Indeed, wild-type and spoVA C. perfringens spores germinated similarly with a mixture of l-asparagine and KCl (AK), KCl alone, or a 1:1 chelate of Ca(2+) and DPA (Ca-DPA). However, the viability of C. perfringens spoVA spores was 20-fold lower than the viability of wild-type spores. Decoated wild-type and spoVA spores exhibited little, if any, germination with AK, KCl, or exogenous Ca-DPA, and their colony-forming efficiency was 10(3)- to 10(4)-fold lower than that of intact spores. However, lysozyme treatment rescued these decoated spores. Although the levels of DNA-protective alpha/beta-type, small, acid-soluble spore proteins in spoVA spores were similar to those in wild-type spores, spoVA spores exhibited markedly lower resistance to moist heat, formaldehyde, HCl, hydrogen peroxide, nitrous acid, and UV radiation than wild-type spores did. In sum, these results suggest the following. (i) SpoVA proteins are essential for Ca-DPA uptake by developing spores during C. perfringens sporulation. (ii) SpoVA proteins and Ca-DPA release are not required for C. perfringens spore germination. (iii) A low spore core water content is essential for full resistance of C. perfringens spores to moist heat, UV radiation, and chemicals.