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J Mol Biol. 2004 Jul 30;341(1):135-50.

A multicomponent protein complex mediates environmental stress signaling in Bacillus subtilis.

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  • 1Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Activity of the general stress transcription factor sigma(B) of Bacillus subtilis is regulated directly by a partner-switching mechanism in which key protein interactions are governed by serine phosphorylation. Signals of energy or environmental stress are conveyed to sigma(B) by independent pathways, each terminating with a differentially regulated serine phosphatase, whose activity is required to control the partner-switching regulators. We present genetic and biochemical evidence that activation of the RsbU environmental signaling phosphatase is modulated by a second, atypical partner switch that comprises redundant negative regulatory proteins in a large, multicomponent signaling complex. In the current model, negative regulation of the RsbU phosphatase depends solely on the RsbS antagonist protein. Here, we perform a critical genetic test that invalidates this model and demonstrates that the RsbS antagonist alone is insufficient to prevent environmental signaling. Also required is one of a family of four co-antagonist proteins, here renamed RsbRA, RsbRB, RsbRC, and RsbRD, each with a carboxyl-terminal domain closely resembling the entire RsbS protein. Because any single member of the RsbR family, together with RsbS, was sufficient for environmental signaling, we conclude that the RsbR proteins serve as redundant co-antagonists necessary for RsbS antagonist function. Moreover, purification of RsbRA from cell extracts by nickel affinity and gel-filtration chromatography found a multicomponent complex containing the RsbRA and RsbRB co-antagonists together with the RsbS antagonist. We propose that this complex serves as a machine to transmit stress signals to sigma(B), and that the properties of the complex may contribute to environmental stress sensing.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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