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Mol Microbiol. 2007 Apr;64(2):500-11.

Perturbations to engulfment trigger a degradative response that prevents cell-cell signalling during sporulation in Bacillus subtilis.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, 200 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA.


During sporulation in Bacillus subtilis, the mother cell membranes migrate around the forespore in a phagocytic-like process called engulfment. Developmental gene expression requires the successful completion of this key morphological event. Here we show that perturbations to engulfment block the accumulation of proteins secreted into the space between the mother cell and forespore membranes. Our data support a model in which engulfment defects cause the proteolytic clearance of these secreted proteins. Importantly, we show that this degradative response is reversible; once proper engulfment is restored, secreted proteins again accumulate. In particular, we have found that the forespore signalling protein SpoIVB fails to accumulate when engulfment is impaired and, as a result, late mother cell gene expression under the control of sigma(K) is blocked. If engulfment is restored, SpoIVB accumulates and cell-cell signalling resumes. Thus, this degradative pathway functions like a developmental checkpoint ensuring that mother cell gene expression does not commence unless morphogenesis proceeds normally.

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