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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2016 Apr;30:122-132. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2016.02.002. Epub 2016 Feb 20.

Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors and defense of the cell envelope.

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Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. Electronic address:


Bacillus subtilis provides a model for investigation of the bacterial cell envelope, the first line of defense against environmental threats. Extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors activate genes that confer resistance to agents that threaten the integrity of the envelope. Although their individual regulons overlap, σ(W) is most closely associated with membrane-active agents, σ(X) with cationic antimicrobial peptide resistance, and σ(V) with resistance to lysozyme. Here, I highlight the role of the σ(M) regulon, which is strongly induced by conditions that impair peptidoglycan synthesis and includes the core pathways of envelope synthesis and cell division, as well as stress-inducible alternative enzymes. Studies of these cell envelope stress responses provide insights into how bacteria acclimate to the presence of antibiotics.

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