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Mol Microbiol. 2016 Aug;101(4):606-24. doi: 10.1111/mmi.13411. Epub 2016 Jun 2.

A protein complex supports the production of Spo0A-P and plays additional roles for biofilms and the K-state in Bacillus subtilis.

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Public Health Research Institute Center.
Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, New Jersey Medical School, Rutgers University, 225 Warren Street, Newark, NJ, 07103, USA.


Bacillus subtilis can enter three developmental pathways to form spores, biofilms or K-state cells. The K-state confers competence for transformation and antibiotic tolerance. Transition into each of these states requires a stable protein complex formed by YlbF, YmcA and YaaT. We have reported that this complex acts in sporulation by accelerating the phosphorylation of the response regulator Spo0A. Phosphorelay acceleration was also predicted to explain their involvement in biofilm formation and the K-state. This view has been challenged in the case of biofilms, by the suggestion that the three proteins act in association with the mRNA degradation protein RNaseY (Rny) to destabilize the sinR transcript. Here, we reaffirm the roles of the three proteins in supporting the phosphorylation of Spo0A for all three developmental pathways and show that in their absence sinR mRNA is not stabilized. We demonstrate that the three proteins also play unknown Spo0A-P-independent roles in the expression of biofilm matrix and in the production of ComK, the master transcription factor for competence. Finally, we show that domesticated strains of B. subtilis carry a mutation in sigH, which influences the expression kinetics of the early spore gene spoIIG, thereby increasing the penetrance of the ylbF, ymcA and yaaT sporulation phenotypes.

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