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J Bacteriol. 2009 Jul;191(13):4103-10. doi: 10.1128/JB.00314-09. Epub 2009 May 1.

An overlap between the control of programmed cell death in Bacillus anthracis and sporulation.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska 68198-6495, USA.


The Staphylococcus aureus cid and lrg operons have been shown to control cell death and lysis in a manner thought to be analogous to programmed cell death (apoptosis) in eukaryotic organisms. Although orthologous operons are present in a wide variety of bacterial species, members of the Bacillus cereus group are unique in that they have a total of four cid-/lrg-like operons. Two of these operons are similar to the S. aureus cid and lrg operons, while the other two (designated clhAB(1) and clhAB(2)) are unique to this group. In the present study, the functions and regulation of these loci were examined. Interestingly, the Bacillus anthracis lrgAB mutant displayed decreased stationary-phase survival, whereas the clhAB(2) mutant exhibited increased stationary-phase survival compared to the parental and complementation strains. However, neither mutation had a dramatic effect on murein hydrolase activity or autolysis. Furthermore, a quantitative analysis of the sporulation efficiency revealed that both mutants formed fewer spores than did the parental strain. Similar to S. aureus, B. anthracis lrgAB transcription was shown to be induced by gramicidin and CCCP, agents known to dissipate the proton motive force, in a lytSR-dependent manner. Northern blot analyses also demonstrated a positive role for lytSR in the clhAB(2) transcription. Taken together, the results of the present study demonstrate that B. anthracis lrgAB and clhAB(2) play important roles in the control of cell death and lysis and reveal a previously unrecognized role of this system in sporulation.

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