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Mol Microbiol. 1990 Feb;4(2):275-82.

The regulation of transcription of the gerA spore germination operon of Bacillus subtilis.

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Krebs Institute, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, UK.


The gerA operon of Bacillus subtilis 168 comprises three genes concerned with the triggering of spore germination by L-alanine and its analogues. The expression of this operon has been characterized using chromosomal lacZ fusions to the gerA promoter. The gerA promoter is switched on 2.5-3 hours after the initiation of sporulation, in parallel with glucose dehydrogenase. A high proportion of the gerA-driven beta-galactosidase detected in sporulating cells is found in the mature spore; the gerA promoter is therefore active in the forespore compartment of the sporulating cell. The gerA promoter is not expressed in spoO, spoII or spoIIIA, B, E and G mutant backgrounds, but is expressed in spoIIIC and D and in spoIV and V mutants. The in vivo transcriptional startpoint of the operon has been mapped by primer extension experiments; sequences upstream from this startpoint show significant homology with recognition sequences for RNA polymerase containing sigma G (E sigma G). The gerA operon was transcribed in vitro by E sigma G with a startpoint identical to that used in vivo, and expression of the gerA operon was rapidly induced in vegetative cells by induction of sigma G synthesis. These data indicate that the gerA operon is an additional member of the sigma G regulon, which includes a number of genes expressed in parallel only in the forespore compartment of sporulating B. subtilis cells.

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