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J Bacteriol. 2003 Jun;185(11):3373-8.

Genes of Bacillus cereus and Bacillus anthracis encoding proteins of the exosporium.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.


The exosporium is the outermost layer of spores of Bacillus cereus and its close relatives Bacillus anthracis and Bacillus thuringiensis. For these pathogens, it represents the surface layer that makes initial contact with the host. To date, only the BclA glycoprotein has been described as a component of the exosporium; this paper defines 10 more tightly associated proteins from the exosporium of B. cereus ATCC 10876, identified by N-terminal sequencing of proteins from purified, washed exosporium. Likely coding sequences were identified from the incomplete genome sequence of B. anthracis or B. cereus ATCC 14579, and the precise corresponding sequence from B. cereus ATCC 10876 was defined by PCR and sequencing. Eight genes encode likely structural components (exsB, exsC, exsD, exsE, exsF, exsG, exsJ, and cotE). Several proteins of the exosporium are related to morphogenetic and outer spore coat proteins of B. subtilis, but most do not have homologues in B. subtilis. ExsE is processed from a larger precursor, and the CotE homologue appears to have been C-terminally truncated. ExsJ contains a domain of GXX collagen-like repeats, like the BclA exosporium protein of B. anthracis. Although most of the exosporium genes are scattered on the genome, bclA and exsF are clustered in a region flanking the rhamnose biosynthesis operon; rhamnose is part of the sugar moiety of spore glycoproteins. Two enzymes, alanine racemase and nucleoside hydrolase, are tightly adsorbed to the exosporium layer; they could metabolize small molecule germinants and may reduce the sensitivity of spores to these, limiting premature germination.

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