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J Mol Biol. 1992 Apr 20;224(4):967-79.

Developmental regulation of transcription of the Bacillus subtilis ftsAZ operon.

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Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, Paris, France.


The products of the ftsA and ftsZ genes play a major role in septum formation in Escherichia coli. Their homologues have been found in various bacterial species, such as Bacillus subtilis where they are involved in septation during vegetative growth as well as during sporulation, a developmental process that is initiated by the formation of an asymmetrically positioned septum. Transcription of the B. subtilis ftsAZ operon was studied during exponential growth and sporulation by monitoring beta-galactosidase synthesis in strains harboring fusions of the E. coli lacZ gene with various fragments of the ftsAZ regulatory region. Transcription of the ftsAZ operon was found to be controlled by three promoters which were mapped by primer extension and characterized by their temporal pattern of expression. Two of these promoters, P1 and P3, are dependent on sigma A, the major vegetative sigma factor, and are expressed mainly during growth. The third one, P2, is recognized by sigma H associated RNA polymerase and its activity increases three- to four-fold around the onset of sporulation. The post-exponential enhancement of P2-driven transcription is abolished in a spo0A mutant but partially restored in an abrB spo0A double mutant. After inactivation by oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis mutated copies of P1 and P2 were introduced into the chromosome upstream from the ftsAZ operon. Transformants could be obtained only when ftsAZ transcription was controlled by a combination of two intact promoters, neither P1, P2 nor P3 being essential for viability. The sporulation efficiency was found to be dependent on the level of transcription of ftsAZ, the absence of P2 still allowing 30% of the normal sporulation rate. Therefore the post-exponential burst of synthesis of the FtsA and FtsZ proteins is not an absolute requirement for the successful completion of the asymmetric septum.

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