The Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic function σ factor σ v is induced by lysozyme and provides resistance to lysozyme

Theresa D. Ho, Jessica L. Hastie, Peter J. Intile, Craig D. Ellermeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Bacteria encounter numerous environmental stresses which can delay or inhibit their growth. Many bacteria utilize alternative σ factors to regulate subsets of genes required to overcome different extracellular assaults. The largest group of these alternative σ factors are the extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factors. In this paper, we demonstrate that the expression of the ECF σ factor σ v in Bacillus subtilis is induced specifically by lysozyme but not other cell wall-damaging agents. A mutation in sigV results in increased sensitivity to lysozyme killing, suggesting that σ v is required for lysozyme resistance. Using reverse transcription (RT)-PCR, we show that the previously uncharacterized gene yrhL (here referred to as oatA for O-acetyltransferase) is in a four-gene operon which includes sigV and rsiV. In quantitative RT-PCR experiments, the expression of oatA is induced by lysozyme stress. Lysozyme induction of oatA is dependent upon σ v. Overexpression of oatA in a sigV mutant restores lysozyme resistance to wild-type levels. This suggests that OatA is required for σ vdependent resistance to lysozyme. We also tested the ability of lysozyme to induce the other ECF σ factors and found that only the expression of sigV is lysozyme inducible. However, we found that the other ECF σ factors contributed to lysozyme resistance. We found that sigX and sigM mutations alone had very little effect on lysozyme resistance but when combined with a sigV mutation resulted in significantly greater lysozyme sensitivity than the sigV mutation alone. This suggests that sigV, sigX, and sigM may act synergistically to control lysozyme resistance. In addition, we show that two ECF σ factor-regulated genes, dltA and pbpX, are required for lysozyme resistance. Thus, we have identified three independent mechanisms which B. subtilis utilizes to avoid killing by lysozyme.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6215-6222
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


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