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J Bacteriol. 1999 Apr;181(8):2448-54.

The plasmid-encoded signal peptidase SipP can functionally replace the major signal peptidases SipS and SipT of Bacillus subtilis.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9751 NN Haren, The Netherlands.


The gram-positive eubacterium Bacillus subtilis is the organism with the largest number of paralogous type I signal peptidases (SPases) known. These are specified both by chromosomal and plasmid-borne genes. The chromosomally encoded SPases SipS and SipT have a major function in precursor processing, and cells depleted of SipS and SipT stop growing and die. In this study, we show that the SPase SipP, specified by the B. subtilis plasmid pTA1015, can functionally replace SipS and SipT, unlike the three chromosomally encoded SPases with a minor function in protein secretion (i.e., SipU, SipV, and SipW). Unexpectedly, SipP is not specifically required for the processing and secretion of Orf1p, which is specified by a gene that is cotranscribed with sipP. These two genes form a conserved structural module of rolling-circle plasmids from B. subtilis. As previously shown for the chromosomal sipS and sipT genes, the transcription of plasmid-borne copies of sipP is temporally controlled, reaching maximal levels during the post-exponential growth phase when the cells secrete proteins at high levels. However, increased transcription of sipP starts at the end of exponential growth, about 2 h earlier than that of sipS and sipT. These data suggest that SipP fulfills a general role in the secretory precursor processing of pTA1015-containing cells.

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