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Microbiology. 2011 May;157(Pt 5):1312-28. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.047555-0. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

The actinobacteria-specific gene wblA controls major developmental transitions in Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2).

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Department of Molecular Microbiology, John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR47UH, UK.


The Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2) sporulation gene whiB is the paradigm of a family of genes (wbl, whiB-like) that are confined to actinobacteria. The chromosome of S. coelicolor contains 11 wbl genes, among which five are conserved in many actinobacteria: whiB itself; whiD, a sporulation gene; wblC, which is required for multi-drug resistance; and wblA and wblE, whose roles had previously been little studied. We succeeded in disrupting wblA and the six non-conserved genes, but could not disrupt wblE. Although mutations in the six non-conserved wbl genes (including some multiple wbl mutants) produced no readily detectable phenotype, mutations in wblA had novel and complex effects. The aerial mycelium of wblA mutants was coloured red, because of the ectopic presence of pigmented antibiotics (actinorhodin and undecylprodigiosin) normally confined to lower parts of wild-type colonies, and consisted almost entirely of non-sporulating, thin, straight filaments, often bundled together in a fibrillar matrix. Rare spore chains were also formed, which exhibited wild-type properties but were genetically still wblA mutants. A wblA mutant achieved higher biomass than the wild-type. Microarray analysis indicated major transcriptional changes in a wblA mutant: using a relatively stringent cut-off, 183 genes were overexpressed, including genes for assimilative primary metabolism and actinorhodin biosynthesis, and 103 were underexpressed, including genes associated with stages of aerial hyphal growth. We suggest that WblA is important in both the slow-down of biomass accumulation and the change from aerial hyphal initial cells to the subapical stem and apical compartments that precede sporulation; and that the mutant aerial mycelium consists of recapitulated defective aerial hyphal initial cells.

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