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Mol Microbiol. 2003 Sep;49(5):1435-47.

In Bacillus subtilis W23, the duet sigmaXsigmaM, two sigma factors of the extracytoplasmic function subfamily, are required for septum and wall synthesis under batch culture conditions.

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Institut de Microbiologie Fondamentale, Université de Lausanne, BB, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


The synthesis of poly(RboP), the main Bacillus subtilis W23 teichoic acid, is encoded by tarDF-tarABIJKL operons, the latter being controlled by two promoters designated PtarA-int and PtarA-ext. Analysis by lacZ fusions reveals that PtarA-int activity exhibits sharp increases at the beginning and end of the transition between exponential and stationary growth phase. As confirmed by mRNA quantification, these increases are mediated by ECF sigma factors sigmaX and sigmaM respectively. In liquid media, strain W23 sigX sigM double mutants experience serious difficulties in the transition and stationary growth phases. Inactivation of sigmaX- and sigmaM-controlled regulons, which precludes transcription from PtarA-int, leads to (i) delays in chromosome segregation and septation and (ii) a transient loss of up to 30% of the culture OD or lysis. However, specific inactivation of PtarA-int, leading mainly to a shortage of poly(RboP), does not affect growth while, nevertheless, interfering with normal septation, as revealed by electron microscopy. The different sigM transcription in strains W23 and 168 is discussed. In W23, expression of tarA and sigM, which is shown to control divIC, is inversely correlated with growth rate, suggesting that the sigM regulon is involved in the control of cell division.

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