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J Bacteriol. 2004 Feb;186(4):1136-46.

The Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic-function sigmaX factor regulates modification of the cell envelope and resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-8101, USA.


Bacillus subtilis contains seven extracytoplasmic-function sigma factors that activate partially overlapping regulons. We here identify four additional members of the sigma(X) regulon, pbpX (penicillin-binding protein), ywnJ, the dlt operon (D-alanylation of teichoic acids), and the pss ybfM psd operon (phosphatidylethanolamine biosynthesis). Modification of teichoic acids by esterification with D-alanine and incorporation of phosphatidylethanolamine into the cell membrane have a common consequence: in both cases positively charged amino groups are introduced into the cell envelope. The resulting reduction in the net negative charge of the cell envelope has been previously implicated as a resistance mechanism specific for cationic antimicrobial peptides. Consistent with this notion, we find that both sigX and dltA mutants are more sensitive to nisin than wild-type cells. We conclude that activation of the sigma(X) regulon serves to alter cell surface properties to provide protection against antimicrobial peptides.

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