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Cell. 2013 Oct 24;155(3):647-58. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.09.050. Epub 2013 Oct 24.

CtpB assembles a gated protease tunnel regulating cell-cell signaling during spore formation in Bacillus subtilis.

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Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, 1030 Vienna, Austria.


Spore formation in Bacillus subtilis relies on a regulated intramembrane proteolysis (RIP) pathway that synchronizes mother-cell and forespore development. To address the molecular basis of this SpoIV transmembrane signaling, we carried out a structure-function analysis of the activating protease CtpB. Crystal structures reflecting distinct functional states show that CtpB constitutes a ring-like protein scaffold penetrated by two narrow tunnels. Access to the proteolytic sites sequestered within these tunnels is controlled by PDZ domains that rearrange upon substrate binding. Accordingly, CtpB resembles a minimal version of a self-compartmentalizing protease regulated by a unique allosteric mechanism. Moreover, biochemical analysis of the PDZ-gated channel combined with sporulation assays reveal that activation of the SpoIV RIP pathway is induced by the concerted activity of CtpB and a second signaling protease, SpoIVB. This proteolytic mechanism is of broad relevance for cell-cell communication, illustrating how distinct signaling pathways can be integrated into a single RIP module.

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