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J Bacteriol. 2008 Dec;190(23):7786-96. doi: 10.1128/JB.00715-08. Epub 2008 Sep 26.

Processing of a membrane protein required for cell-to-cell signaling during endospore formation in Bacillus subtilis.

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Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Avenida da República, Apartado 127, 2781-901 Oeiras Codex, Portugal.


Activation of the late prespore-specific RNA polymerase sigma factor sigma(G) during Bacillus subtilis sporulation coincides with completion of the engulfment process, when the prespore becomes a protoplast fully surrounded by the mother cell cytoplasm and separated from it by a double membrane system. Activation of sigma(G) also requires expression of spoIIIJ, coding for a membrane protein translocase of the YidC/Oxa1p/Alb3 family, and of the mother cell-specific spoIIIA operon. Here we present genetic and biochemical evidence indicating that SpoIIIAE, the product of one of the spoIIIA cistrons, and SpoIIIJ interact in the membrane, thereby linking the function of the spoIIIJ and spoIIIA loci in the activation of sigma(G). We also show that SpoIIIAE has a functional Sec-type signal peptide, which is cleaved during sporulation. Furthermore, mutations that reduce or eliminate processing of the SpoIIIAE signal peptide arrest sporulation following engulfment completion and prevent activation of sigma(G). SpoIIIJ-type proteins can function in cooperation with or independently of the Sec system. In one model, SpoIIIJ interacts with SpoIIIAE in the context of the Sec translocon to promote its correct localization and/or topology in the membrane, so that it can signal the activation of sigma(G) following engulfment completion.

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