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J Bacteriol. 2007 Oct;189(19):6919-27. Epub 2007 Aug 3.

Regulatory overlap and functional redundancy among Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic function sigma factors.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Wing Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-8101, USA.


Bacillus subtilis encodes seven extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors that regulate partially overlapping regulons related to cell envelope homeostasis and antibiotic resistance. Here, we investigated their physiological role by constructing a mutant set of single, double, triple, and quadruple ECF sigma factor deletions in the undomesticated B. subtilis strain NCIB3610. This mutant set was subsequently screened for defects in motility, multicellular differentiation, and sensitivity to more than 200 chemicals by using Phenotype MicroArrays. A quadruple mutant strain, harboring deletions of the sigV, sigY, sigZ, and ylaC gene, behaved indistinguishably from the wild-type strain, indicative of either regulatory redundancy or very specific functions of these four ECF sigma factors. In contrast, a triple mutant, inactivated for the sigM, sigW, and sigX genes (but none of the corresponding double mutants), showed a biphasic growth behavior and a complete loss of multicellular differentiation, as judged by both colony formation and the inability to form a pellicle. This triple mutant also displayed a greatly increased sensitivity to detergents and several cell wall antibiotics including beta-lactams, polymyxin B, and d-cycloserine. In several cases, these antibiotic-sensitive phenotypes are significantly enhanced in the triple mutant strain relative to strains lacking only one or two sigma factors.

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