Induction of extracytoplasmic function sigma factors in Bacillus subtilis cells with defects in lipoteichoic acid synthesis

Michihiro Hashimoto, Takahiro Seki, Satoshi Matsuoka, Hiroshi Hara, Kei Asai, Yoshito Sadaie, Kouji Matsumoto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Lipoteichoic acid (LTA) is an important cell envelope component of Gram-positive bacteria. Bacillus subtilis has four homologous genes for LTA synthesis: ltaS (yflE), yfnI, yqgS and yvgJ. The products LtaS (YflE), YfnI and YqgS are bona fide LTA synthetases, whereas YvgJ functions only as an LTA primase. To clarify whether defects in LTA on the cell envelope trigger extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors, mRNA levels of the autoregulated ECF sigma factors in cells with singly and multiply deleted alleles of the ltaS homologues were examined by real-time RT-PCR. This revealed that sigM and sigX were induced in cells with a null allele of ΔltaS and ΔyfnI, respectively, and that no ECF sigma factor was induced in cells with a single null allele of ΔyqgS or ΔyvgJ. In cells with double null alleles (ΔltaS and ΔyfnI), sigW and ylaC were induced in addition to sigM and sigX. Cells with triple null alleles (ΔltaS ΔyfnI and ΔyqgS) showed a pattern of induction similar to that of the double null. In cells with quadruple null alleles, sigV and sigY were newly induced. Cells with ΔltaS had approximatley 1/4 the diglucosyldiacylglycerol and over 10 times the CDP-diacylglycerol of wild-type cells. Compensatory elevation of the mRNA level of other homologues was observed (in ΔltaS cells the level of yfnI was elevated; in ΔyfnI cells that of yqgS and yvgJ was elevated; both were even higher in ΔltaS ΔyfnI cells). In ΔltaS cells, the mRNA level of yfnI was corroborated to be regulated by σM, which is activated in the null mutant cells. In ΔyfnI cells, the mRNA levels of yqgS and yvgJ reverted to less than those of wild-type when a defective sigX allele was introduced. Since sigX was activated in cells with ΔyfnI, this suggests that the induction of yqgS and yvgJ is dependent on σX. The LTAs produced by the four ltaS homologues seem to play distinct physiological roles to maintain the full function of LTA on the B. subtilis cell envelope.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-35
Number of pages13
JournalMicrobiology (United Kingdom)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jan
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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