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Mol Microbiol. 2002 Dec;46(5):1223-38.

A central regulator of morphological differentiation in the multicellular bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology, Biozentrum, Universit├Ąt Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 50/70, 4056 Basel, Switzerland.


In the multicellular bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor, functions of developmental (bald) genes are required for the biosynthesis of SapB, a hydrophobic peptidic morphogen that facilitates aerial hyphae formation. Here, we show that aerial hyphal growth and SapB biosynthesis could be activated independently from the normal developmental cascade by providing unprogrammed expression of functionally interactive genes within the ram cluster. ramC, ramS and ramR were essential for normal growth of aerial hyphae, and ramR, a response regulator gene, was a key activator of development. The ramR gene restored growth of aerial hyphae and SapB formation in all bald strains tested (albeit only weakly in the bldC mutant), many of which are characterized by physiological defects. Disruption of the ramR gene abolished SapB biosynthesis and severely delayed growth of aerial hyphae. Transcription of ramR was developmentally controlled, and RamR function in vivo depended on its putative phosphorylation site (D53). We identified and mapped RamR targets immediately upstream of the region encoding ramC and ramS, a putative operon. Overexpression of ramR in the wild-type strain increased SapB levels and caused a distinctive wrinkled surface topology. Based on these results, we propose that phenotypes of bald mutations reflect an early stage in the Streptomyces developmental programme similar to the spo0 mutations in the unicellular bacterium Bacillus subtilis, and that RamR has analogies to Spo0A, the Bacillus response regulator that integrates physiological signals before triggering endospore formation.

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