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J Bacteriol. 1994 Aug;176(15):4492-500.

Identification of flagellar synthesis regulatory and structural genes in a sigma D-dependent operon of Bacillus subtilis.

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Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


The sigma D form of RNA polymerase from Bacillus subtilis has been shown previously to direct the synthesis of several transcription units bearing genes for flagellin, motility proteins, and autolysins. In this report, we describe an operon of genes transcribed from the sigma D-dependent promoter PD-1. We have identified three complete open reading frames and one partial one downstream of this promoter; immediately upstream is the previously identified comF locus. The PD-1 operon encodes the presumptive B. subtilis homologs of two Salmonella typhimurium late flagellar genes, flgM and flgK. Also present in this operon are two genes of unknown function, orf139 and orf160, whose products show similarities to the eukaryotic cytoskeletal proteins myosin and vimentin, respectively. orf139 and orf160 may encode proteins that form extended alpha-helical secondary structures and coiled-coil quaternary structures which may be filamentous components of the gram-positive bacterial flagellum. We have characterized the B. subtilis flgM gene further by constructing an in-frame deletion mutation, flgM delta 80, and creating strains of B. subtilis in which this allele has replaced the wild-type copy. By primer extension analysis of cellular RNA, we have shown that the flgM delta 80 mutation relieves the block to transcription of two other sigma D-dependent operons imposed by an unlinked mutation in a gene directing early flagellar synthesis. We conclude that, as in the case of S. typhimurium, early flagellar synthesis in B. subtilis is coupled to late flagellar synthesis through repression of sigma D-dependent transcription by the flgM gene product.

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