A Bacillus subtilis regulatory gene product for genetic competence and sporulation resembles sensor protein members of the bacterial two-component signal-transduction systems

Y. Weinrauch, R. Penchev, E. Dubnau, E. Smith, D. Dubnau

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A Bacillus subtilis gene, required for genetic competence, was identified immediately upstream from the previously characterized gene comA. The comA gene product has been found to exhibit amino acid sequence similarity to the so-called effector class of signal-transduction proteins. DNA sequencing of the new determinant, named comP, revealed that the carboxy-terminal domain of the predicted ComP protein is similar in amino acid sequence to that of several sensor members of the bacterial two-component signal-transduction systems. The predicted amino-terminal domain contains several hydrophobic segments, postulated to be membrane-spanning. In vitro-derived comP disruptions are epistatic on the expression of all late competence genes tested, including comG, comC, comD, and comE, but not on expression of the early gene comB. Although comA has its own promoter, some transcription of comA, especially later in growth, occurs via readthrough from comP sequences. A roughly twofold epistatic effect of a comP disruption was noted on the downstream comA determinant, possibly due to interruption of readthrough transcription from comP to comA. Overexpression of comA fully restored competence to a comP mutant, providing evidence that ComA acts after ComP, and consistent with a role for the latter protein in activation of the former, possibly by phosphorylation. ComP probably is involved in transmitting information concerning the nutritional status of the medium, particularly the presence of nitrogen- and carbon-containing nutrients. ComP was also shown to play a role in sporulation, at least partly interchangeable with that of SpoIIJ, another putative sensor protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)860-872
Number of pages13
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


  • Genetic competence
  • global regulation
  • signal transduction
  • sporulation

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