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Mol Microbiol. 2004 Oct;54(1):172-83.

Identification of ComW as a new component in the regulation of genetic transformation in Streptococcus pneumoniae.

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Laboratory for Molecular Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA.


Regulation of competence for genetic transformation in Streptococcus pneumoniae depends on a quorum-sensing system, genes involved in DNA uptake and recombination and a link between these two gene sets. The alternative sigma factor ComX provides this link. ComE, the response regulator of the quorum-sensing system, is required for expression of ComX and other early genes. However, an unknown ComE-dependent regulator is also required for competence when comX is expressed under control of the raffinose-responsive promoter of the aga operon. The gene comW (SP0018) is required for a high level of competence and is regulated by the quorum-sensing system, but its function is unknown. To explore its role further, comW was cloned into the multicopy plasmid pMSP3535, under the control of a nisin-inducible promoter (P(N)), and transformed into pneumococcal strains containing a raffinose-inducible comX gene (P(R)::comX). Further introduction of a comE deletion blocked the endogenous CSP signal transduction pathway. In the resulting strain, competence was independent of CSP but depended on treatment with both nisin and raffinose, showing that coexpression of comW and comX complemented the comE deficiency. ComX protein accumulation and expression of a late competence gene in the above strain support the conclusion that ComW is a new positive factor involved in competence regulation.

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