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J Mol Biol. 2003 Apr 11;327(5):945-72.

The sigmaE regulon and the identification of additional sporulation genes in Bacillus subtilis.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University Biological Laboratories, 16 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


We report the identification and characterization on a genome-wide basis of genes under the control of the developmental transcription factor sigma(E) in Bacillus subtilis. The sigma(E) factor governs gene expression in the larger of the two cellular compartments (the mother cell) created by polar division during the developmental process of sporulation. Using transcriptional profiling and bioinformatics we show that 253 genes (organized in 157 operons) appear to be controlled by sigma(E). Among these, 181 genes (organized in 121 operons) had not been previously described as members of this regulon. Promoters for many of the newly identified genes were located by transcription start site mapping. To assess the role of these genes in sporulation, we created null mutations in 98 of the newly identified genes and operons. Of the resulting mutants, 12 (in prkA, ybaN, yhbH, ykvV, ylbJ, ypjB, yqfC, yqfD, ytrH, ytrI, ytvI and yunB) exhibited defects in spore formation. In addition, subcellular localization studies were carried out using in-frame fusions of several of the genes to the coding sequence for GFP. A majority of the fusion proteins localized either to the membrane surrounding the developing spore or to specific layers of the spore coat, although some fusions showed a uniform distribution in the mother cell cytoplasm. Finally, we used comparative genomics to determine that 46 of the sigma(E)-controlled genes in B.subtilis were present in all of the Gram-positive endospore-forming bacteria whose genome has been sequenced, but absent from the genome of the closely related but not endospore-forming bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, thereby defining a core of conserved sporulation genes of probable common ancestral origin. Our findings set the stage for a comprehensive understanding of the contribution of a cell-specific transcription factor to development and morphogenesis.

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