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J Bacteriol. Feb 1990; 172(2): 824–834.
PMCID: PMC208512

Signal transduction pathway controlling synthesis of a class of degradative enzymes in Bacillus subtilis: expression of the regulatory genes and analysis of mutations in degS and degU.


The rates of synthesis of a class of both secreted and intracellular degradative enzymes in Bacillus subtilis are controlled by a signal transduction pathway defined by at least four regulatory genes: degS, degU, degQ (formerly sacQ), and degR (formerly prtR). The DegS-DegU proteins show amino acid similarities with two-component procaryotic modulator-effector pairs such as NtrB-NtrC, CheA-CheY, and EnvZ-OmpR. By analogy with these systems, it is possible that DegS is a protein kinase which could catalyze the transfer of a phosphoryl moiety to DegU, which acts as a positive regulator. DegR and DegQ correspond to polypeptides of 60 and 46 amino acids, respectively, which also activate the synthesis of degradative enzymes. We show that the degS and degU genes are organized in an operon. The putative sigma A promoter of the operon was mapped upstream from degS. Mutations in degS and degU were characterized at the molecular level, and their effects on transformability and cell motility were studied. The expression of degQ was shown to be subject both to catabolite repression and DegS-DegU-mediated control, allowing an increase in the rate of synthesis of degQ under conditions of nitrogen starvation. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that this control system responds to an environmental signal such as limitations of nitrogen, carbon, or phosphate sources.

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