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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Jul;41(1):59-71.

Alkaline shock induces the Bacillus subtilis sigma(W) regulon.

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Institute of Genetics, University of Bayreuth, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany.


When confronted with a stress factor, bacteria react with a specific stress response, a genetically encoded programme resulting in the transiently enhanced expression of a subset of genes. One of these stress factors is a sudden increase in the external pH. As a first step to understand the response of Bacillus subtilis cells towards an alkali shock at the transcriptional level, we attempted to identify alkali-inducible genes using the DNA macroarray technique. To define the appropriate challenging conditions, we used the ydjF gene, the orthologue of the Escherichia coli pspA, as a model gene for an alkali-inducible gene. Hybridization of 33P-labelled cDNA to a DNA macroarray revealed induction of more than 80 genes by a sudden increase in the external pH value from 6.3 to 8.9. It was discovered that a large subset of these genes belong to the recently described sigmaW regulon, which was confirmed by the analysis of a sigW knockout. A comparison of B. subtilis wild type with the congenic sigW knockout also led to the discovery of new members of the sigmaW regulon. In addition, we found several genes clearly not belonging to that regulon. This analysis represents the first report of an extracellular stimulus inducing the sigmaW regulon.

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