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J Bacteriol. 2014 Mar;196(6):1206-14. doi: 10.1128/JB.01238-13. Epub 2014 Jan 10.

Assessment of the requirements for magnesium transporters in Bacillus subtilis.

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The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Department of Biochemistry, Dallas, Texas, USA.


Magnesium is the most abundant divalent metal in cells and is required for many structural and enzymatic functions. For bacteria, at least three families of proteins function as magnesium transporters. In recent years, it has been shown that a subset of these transport proteins is regulated by magnesium-responsive genetic control elements. In this study, we investigated the cellular requirements for magnesium homeostasis in the model microorganism Bacillus subtilis. Putative magnesium transporter genes were mutationally disrupted, singly and in combination, in order to assess their general importance. Mutation of only one of these genes resulted in strong dependency on supplemental extracellular magnesium. Notably, this transporter gene, mgtE, is known to be under magnesium-responsive genetic regulatory control. This suggests that the identification of magnesium-responsive genetic mechanisms may generally denote primary transport proteins for bacteria. To investigate whether B. subtilis encodes yet additional classes of transport mechanisms, suppressor strains that permitted the growth of a transporter-defective mutant were identified. Several of these strains were sequenced to determine the genetic basis of the suppressor phenotypes. None of these mutations occurred in transport protein homologues; instead, they affected housekeeping functions, such as signal recognition particle components and ATP synthase machinery. From these aggregate data, we speculate that the mgtE protein provides the primary route of magnesium import in B. subtilis and that the other putative transport proteins are likely to be utilized for more-specialized growth conditions.

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