Termination factor Rho: From the control of pervasive transcription to cell fate determination in Bacillus subtilis.
ABSTRACT: In eukaryotes, RNA species originating from pervasive transcription are regulators of various cellular processes, from the expression of individual genes to the control of cellular development and oncogenesis. In prokaryotes, the function of pervasive transcription and its output on cell physiology is still unknown. Most bacteria possess termination factor Rho, which represses pervasive, mostly antisense, transcription. Here, we investigate the biological significance of Rho-controlled transcription in the Gram-positive model bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Rho inactivation strongly affected gene expression in B. subtilis, as assessed by transcriptome and proteome analysis of a rho-null mutant during exponential growth in rich medium. Subsequent physiological analyses demonstrated that a considerable part of Rho-controlled transcription is connected to balanced regulation of three mutually exclusive differentiation programs: cell motility, biofilm formation, and sporulation. In the absence of Rho, several up-regulated sense and antisense transcripts affect key structural and regulatory elements of these differentiation programs, thereby suppressing motility and biofilm formation and stimulating sporulation. We dissected how Rho is involved in the activity of the cell fate decision-making network, centered on the master regulator Spo0A. We also revealed a novel regulatory mechanism of Spo0A activation through Rho-dependent intragenic transcription termination of the protein kinase kinB gene. Altogether, our findings indicate that distinct Rho-controlled transcripts are functional and constitute a previously unknown built-in module for the control of cell differentiation in B. subtilis. In a broader context, our results highlight the recruitment of the termination factor Rho, for which the conserved biological role is probably to repress pervasive transcription, in highly integrated, bacterium-specific, regulatory networks.
Project description:Bacteria adopt alternative cell fates during development. In Bacillus subtilis, the transition from planktonic growth to biofilm formation and sporulation is controlled by a complex regulatory circuit, in which the most important event is activation of Spo0A, a transcription factor and a master regulator for genes involved in both biofilm formation and sporulation. In B. cereus, the regulatory pathway controlling biofilm formation and cell differentiation is much less clear. In this study, we show that a novel gene, comER, plays a significant role in biofilm formation as well as sporulation in both B. subtilis and B. cereus. Mutations in the comER gene result in defects in biofilm formation and a delay in spore formation in the two Bacillus species. Our evidence supports the idea that comER may be part of the regulatory circuit that controls Spo0A activation. comER likely acts upstream of sda, a gene encoding a small checkpoint protein for both sporulation and biofilm formation, by blocking the phosphor-relay and thereby Spo0A activation. In summary, our studies outlined a conserved, positive role for comER, a gene whose function was previously uncharacterized, in the regulation of biofilm formation and sporulation in the two Bacillus species.
Project description:Cell differentiation is ubiquitous and facilitates division of labor and development. Bacteria are capable of multicellular behaviors that benefit the bacterial community as a whole. A striking example of bacterial differentiation occurs throughout the formation of a biofilm. During Bacillus subtilis biofilm formation, a subpopulation of cells differentiates into a specialized population that synthesizes the exopolysaccharide and the TasA amyloid components of the extracellular matrix. The differentiation process is indirectly controlled by the transcription factor Spo0A that facilitates transcription of the eps and tapA (tasA) operons. DegU is a transcription factor involved in regulating biofilm formation. Here, using a combination of genetics and live single-cell cytological techniques, we define the mechanism of biofilm inhibition at high levels of phosphorylated DegU (DegU?P) by showing that transcription from the eps and tapA promoter regions is inhibited. Data demonstrating that this is not a direct regulatory event are presented. We demonstrate that DegU?P controls the frequency with which cells activate transcription from the operons needed for matrix biosynthesis in favor of an off state. Subsequent experimental analysis led us to conclude that DegU?P functions to increase the level of Spo0A?P, driving cell fate differentiation toward the terminal developmental process of sporulation.
Project description:Bacillus subtilis cells form multicellular biofilm communities in which spatiotemporal regulation of gene expression occurs, leading to differentiation of multiple coexisting cell types. These cell types include matrix-producing and sporulating cells. Extracellular matrix production and sporulation are linked in that a mutant unable to produce matrix is delayed for sporulation. Here, we show that the delay in sporulation is not due to a growth advantage of the matrix-deficient mutant under these conditions. Instead, we show that the link between matrix production and sporulation is through the Spo0A signaling pathway. Both processes are regulated by the phosphorylated form of the master transcriptional regulator Spo0A. When cells have low levels of phosphorylated Spo0A (Spo0A~P), matrix genes are expressed; however, at higher levels of Spo0A~P, sporulation commences. We have found that Spo0A~P levels are maintained at low levels in the matrix-deficient mutant, thereby delaying expression of sporulation-specific genes. This is due to the activity of one of the components of the Spo0A phosphotransfer network, KinD. A deletion of kinD suppresses the sporulation defect of matrix mutants, while its overproduction delays sporulation. Our data indicate that KinD displays a dual role as a phosphatase or a kinase and that its activity is linked to the presence of extracellular matrix in the biofilms. We propose a novel role for KinD in biofilms as a checkpoint protein that regulates the onset of sporulation by inhibiting the activity of Spo0A until matrix, or a component therein, is sensed.
Project description:The spore-forming bacterium Bacillus subtilis forms matrix-enclosed biofilms in response to environmental cues that to date remain poorly defined. Biofilm formation depends on the synthesis of an extracellular matrix, which is indirectly regulated by the transcriptional regulator Spo0A. The activity of Spo0A depends on its phosphorylation state. The level of phosphorylated Spo0A (Spo0A~P) is controlled by a network of kinases and phosphatases, which respond to environmental and physiological signals. In spite of significant progress in understanding biofilm development, the fundamental question of how cells sense the environmental cues that trigger biofilm formation has largely remained unaddressed. Here, we report that biofilm formation of B. subtilis in LB medium is triggered by a combination of glycerol and manganese (GM). Moreover, LB medium with GM significantly stimulates biofilm-associated sporulation and production of an undefined brown pigment. We further show that transcription of the major operons responsible for matrix production and biofilm formation is dramatically enhanced in response to GM. We also establish that KinD is a principal histidine kinase responsible for sensing the presence of GM exclusively by its extracellular CACHE domain. Finally, we show that GM has a similar biofilm-promoting effect in two related Bacillus species, B. licheniformis and B. cereus, indicating that the biofilm-promoting effect of GM is conserved in Bacillus species.
Project description:Bacillus subtilis can enter three developmental pathways to form spores, biofilms or K-state cells. The K-state confers competence for transformation and antibiotic tolerance. Transition into each of these states requires a stable protein complex formed by YlbF, YmcA and YaaT. We have reported that this complex acts in sporulation by accelerating the phosphorylation of the response regulator Spo0A. Phosphorelay acceleration was also predicted to explain their involvement in biofilm formation and the K-state. This view has been challenged in the case of biofilms, by the suggestion that the three proteins act in association with the mRNA degradation protein RNaseY (Rny) to destabilize the sinR transcript. Here, we reaffirm the roles of the three proteins in supporting the phosphorylation of Spo0A for all three developmental pathways and show that in their absence sinR mRNA is not stabilized. We demonstrate that the three proteins also play unknown Spo0A-P-independent roles in the expression of biofilm matrix and in the production of ComK, the master transcription factor for competence. Finally, we show that domesticated strains of B. subtilis carry a mutation in sigH, which influences the expression kinetics of the early spore gene spoIIG, thereby increasing the penetrance of the ylbF, ymcA and yaaT sporulation phenotypes.
Project description:In Bacillus subtilis, a proteolytic machine composed of MecA, ClpC and ClpP degrades the transcription factor ComK, controlling its accumulation during growth. MecA also inhibits sporulation and biofilm formation by down-regulating spoIIG and sinI, genes that are dependent for their transcription on the phosphorylated protein Spo0A-P. Additionally, MecA has been shown to interact in vitro with Spo0A. Although the inhibitory effect on transcription requires MecA's binding partner ClpC, inhibition is not accompanied by the degradation of Spo0A, pointing to a previously unsuspected regulatory mechanism involving these proteins. Here, we further investigate the MecA and ClpC effects on Spo0A-P-dependent transcription. We show that MecA inhibits the transcription of several Spo0A-P activated genes, but fails to de-repress several Spo0A-P repressed promoters. This demonstrates that MecA and ClpC do not act by preventing the binding of Spo0A-P to its target promoters. Consistent with this, MecA by itself has no effect in vitro on the transcription from PspoIIG while the addition of both MecA and ClpC has a strong inhibitory effect. A complex of MecA and ClpC likely binds to Spo0A-P on its target promoters, preventing the activation of transcription. Thus, components of a degradative machine have been harnessed to directly repress transcription.
Project description:The transcription factor Spo0A is a master regulator for entry into sporulation in Bacillus subtilis and also regulates expression of the virulent B. subtilis phage phi29. Here, we describe a novel function for Spo0A, being an inhibitor of DNA replication of both, the phi29 genome and the B. subtilis chromosome. Binding of Spo0A near the phi29 DNA ends, constituting the two origins of replication of the linear phi29 genome, prevents formation of phi29 protein p6-nucleoprotein initiation complex resulting in inhibition of phi29 DNA replication. At the B. subtilis oriC, binding of Spo0A to specific sequences, which mostly coincide with DnaA-binding sites, prevents open complex formation. Thus, by binding to the origins of replication, Spo0A prevents the initiation step of DNA replication of either genome. The implications of this novel role of Spo0A for phage phi29 development and the bacterial chromosome replication during the onset of sporulation are discussed.
Project description:The master regulator for entry into sporulation in Bacillus subtilis is the response regulator Spo0A, which directly governs the expression of about 121 genes. Using cells in which the synthesis of Spo0A was under the control of an inducible promoter or in which production of the regulatory protein was impaired by a promoter mutation, we found that sporulation required a high (threshold) level of Spo0A and that many genes in the regulon differentially responded to high and low doses of the regulator. We distinguished four categories of genes, as follows: (i) those that required a high level of Spo0A to be activated, (ii) those that required a high level of Spo0A to be repressed, (iii) those that were activated at a low level of the regulator, and (iv) those that were repressed at a low dose of the regulator. Genes that required a high dose of Spo0A to be activated were found to have low binding constants for the DNA-binding protein. Some genes that were turned on at a low dose of Spo0A either had a high binding constant for the regulatory protein or were activated by an indirect mechanism involving Spo0A-mediated relief of repression by the repressor protein AbrB. We propose that progressive increases in the level of Spo0A leads to an early phase of transcription in which genes that play auxiliary roles in development, such as cannibalism and biofilm formation, are turned on and a later phase in which genes that play a direct role in sporulation are activated.
Project description:Upon nutrient deprivation, Bacillus subtilis initiates the developmental process of sporulation by integrating environmental and extracellular signals. These signals are channeled into a phosphorelay ultimately activating the key transcriptional regulator of sporulation, Spo0A. Subsequently, phosphorylated Spo0A regulates the expression of genes required for sporulation to initiate. Here we identified a group of genes whose transcription levels are controlled by Spo0A during exponential growth. Among them, three upregulated genes, termed sivA, sivB (bslA), and sivC, encode factors found to inhibit Spo0A activation. We furthermore show that the Siv factors operate by reducing the activity of histidine kinases located at the top of the sporulation phosphorelay, thereby decreasing Spo0A phosphorylation. Thus, we demonstrate the existence of modulators, positively controlled by Spo0A, which inhibit inappropriate entry into the costly process of sporulation, when conditions are favorable for exponential growth.
Project description:Bacillus subtilis cells can adopt different life-styles in response to various environmental cues, including planktonic cells during vegetative growth, sessile cells during biofilm formation and sporulation. While switching life-styles, bacteria must coordinate the progression of their cell cycle with their physiological status. Our current understanding of the regulatory pathways controlling the decision-making processes and triggering developmental switches highlights a key role of protein phosphorylation. The regulatory mechanisms that integrate the bacterial chromosome replication status with sporulation involve checkpoint proteins that target the replication initiator DnaA or the kinase phosphorelay controlling the master regulator Spo0A. B. subtilis YabA is known to interact with DnaA to prevent over-initiation of replication during vegetative growth. Here, we report that YabA is phosphorylated by YabT, a Ser/Thr kinase expressed during sporulation and biofilm formation. The phosphorylation of YabA has no effect on replication initiation control but hyper-phosphorylation of YabA leads to an increase in sporulation efficiency and a strong inhibition of biofilm formation. We also provide evidence that YabA phosphorylation affects the level of Spo0A-P in cells. These results indicate that YabA is a multifunctional protein with a dual role in regulating replication initiation and life-style switching, thereby providing a potential mechanism for cross-talk and coordination of cellular processes during adaptation to environmental change.