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Cell. 1997 Jun 13;89(6):917-25.

An exported peptide functions intracellularly to contribute to cell density signaling in B. subtilis.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


Competence development and sporulation in B. subtilis are partly controlled by peptides that accumulate in culture medium as cells grow to high density. We constructed two genes that encode mature forms of two different signaling molecules, the PhrA peptide that stimulates sporulation, and CSF, the competence- and sporulation-stimulating factor. Both pentapeptides are normally produced by secretion and processing of precursor molecules. The mature pentapeptides were functional when expressed inside the cell, indicating that they normally need to be imported to function. Furthermore, at physiological concentrations (10 nM), CSF was transported into the cell by the oligopeptide permease encoded by spo0K (opp). CSF was shown to have at least three different targets corresponding to its three activities: stimulating competence gene expression at low concentrations, and inhibiting competence gene expression and stimulating sporulation at high concentrations.

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