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Environ Microbiol Rep. 2017 Jun;9(3):279-289. doi: 10.1111/1758-2229.12531. Epub 2017 Apr 3.

Hierarchical mutational events compensate for glutamate auxotrophy of a Bacillus subtilis gltC mutant.

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Department of General Microbiology, Georg August University Göttingen, Grisebachstr. 8, Göttingen, 37077, Germany.
Department of Genetics, Bacterial Genetics, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Philosophenweg 12, Jena, 07743, Germany.
Department of Genomic and Applied Microbiology, Georg August University Göttingen, Grisebachstr. 8, Göttingen, 37077, Germany.


Glutamate is the major donor of nitrogen for anabolic reactions. The Gram-positive soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis either utilizes exogenously provided glutamate or synthesizes it using the gltAB-encoded glutamate synthase (GOGAT). In the absence of glutamate, the transcription factor GltC activates expression of the GOGAT genes for glutamate production. Consequently, a gltC mutant strain is auxotrophic for glutamate. Using a genetic selection and screening system, we could isolate and differentiate between gltC suppressor mutants in one step. All mutants had acquired the ability to synthesize glutamate, independent of GltC. We identified (i) gain-of-function mutations in the gltR gene, encoding the transcription factor GltR, (ii) mutations in the promoter of the gltAB operon and (iii) massive amplification of the genomic locus containing the gltAB operon. The mutants belonging to the first two classes constitutively expressed the gltAB genes and produced sufficient glutamate for growth. By contrast, mutants that belong to the third class appeared most frequently and solved glutamate limitation by increasing the copy number of the poorly expressed gltAB genes. Thus, glutamate auxotrophy of a B. subtilis gltC mutant can be relieved in multiple ways. Moreover, recombination-dependent amplification of the gltAB genes is the predominant mutational event indicating a hierarchy of mutations.

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