The Bacillus cereus sensu lato group contains ubiquitous facultative anaerobic soil-borne Gram-positive spore-forming bacilli. Molecular phylogeny and comparative genome sequencing have suggested that these organisms should be classified as a single species. While clonal in nature, there do not appear to be species-specific clonal lineages, excepting B. anthracis, in spite of the wide array of phenotypes displayed by these organisms.
We compared the protein-coding content of 201 B. cereus sensu lato genomes to characterize differences and understand the consequences of these differences on biological function. From this larger group we selected a subset consisting of 25 whole genomes for deeper analysis. Cluster analysis of orthologous proteins grouped these genomes into five distinct clades. Each clade could be characterized by unique genes shared among the group, with consequences for the phenotype of each clade. Surprisingly, this population structure recapitulates our recent observations on the divergence of the generalized stress response (SigB) regulons in these organisms. Divergence of the SigB regulon among these organisms is primarily due to the placement of SigB-dependent promoters that bring genes from a common gene pool into/out of the SigB regulon.
Collectively, our observations suggest the hypothesis that the evolution of these closely related bacteria is a consequence of two distinct processes. Horizontal gene transfer, gene duplication/divergence and deletion dictate the underlying coding capacity in these genomes. Regulatory divergence overlays this protein coding reservoir and shapes the expression of both the unique and shared coding capacity of these organisms, resulting in phenotypic divergence. Data from other organisms suggests that this is likely a common pattern in prokaryotic evolution.
Prokaryotic Evolution; comparative; divergence; sigB; B. cereus sensu lato
The Bacillus cereus sensu lato group consists of six species (B. anthracis, B. cereus, B. mycoides, B. pseudomycoides, B. thuringiensis, and B. weihenstephanensis). While classical microbial taxonomy proposed these organisms as distinct species, newer molecular phylogenies and comparative genome sequencing suggests that these organisms should be classified as a single species (thus, we will refer to these organisms collectively as the Bc species-group). How do we account for the underlying similarity of these phenotypically diverse microbes? It has been established for some time that the most rapidly evolving and evolutionarily flexible portions of the bacterial genome are regulatory sequences and transcriptional networks. Other studies have suggested that the sigma factor gene family of these organisms has diverged and expanded significantly relative to their ancestors; sigma factors are those portions of the bacterial transcriptional apparatus that control RNA polymerase recognition for promoter selection. Thus, examining sigma factor divergence in these organisms would concurrently examine both regulatory sequences and transcriptional networks important for divergence. We began this examination by comparison to the sigma factor gene set of B. subtilis.
Phylogenetic analysis of the Bc species-group utilizing 157 single-copy genes of the family Bacillaceae suggests that several taxonomic revisions of the genus Bacillus should be considered. Within the Bc species-group there is little indication that the currently recognized species form related sub-groupings, suggesting that they are members of the same species. The sigma factor gene family encoded by the Bc species-group appears to be the result of a dynamic gene-duplication and gene-loss process that in previous analyses underestimated the true heterogeneity of the sigma factor content in the Bc species-group.
Expansion of the sigma factor gene family appears to have preferentially occurred within the extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factor genes, while the primary alternative (PA) sigma factor genes are, in general, highly conserved with those found in B. subtilis. Divergence of the sigma-controlled transcriptional regulons among various members of the Bc species-group likely has a major role in explaining the diversity of phenotypic characteristics seen in members of the Bc species-group.
To characterize the roles of SigB and SigF in sigma factor regulation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we used chemically inducible recombinant strains to conditionally overexpress sigB and sigF. Using whole genomic microarray analysis and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, we investigated the resulting global transcriptional changes after sigB induction, and we specifically tested the relative expression of other sigma factor genes after knock-in expression of sigB and sigF. Overexpression of sigB resulted in significant upregulation of genes encoding several early culture filtrate antigens (ESAT-6-like proteins), ribosomal proteins, PE-PGRS proteins, the keto-acyl synthase, KasA, and the regulatory proteins WhiB2 and IdeR. Of note, the induction of sigB did not alter the expression of other sigma factor genes, indicating that SigB is likely to serve as an end regulator for at least one branch of the M. tuberculosis sigma factor regulatory cascade. Analysis of the 5′-untranslated region (UTR) of SigB-dependent transcripts revealed a putative consensus sequence of NGTGG-N14-18-NNGNNG. This sequence appeared upstream of both sigB (Rv2710) and the gene following it, ideR (Rv2711), and in vitro transcription analysis with recombinant SigB-reconstituted RNA polymerase confirmed SigB-dependent transcription from each of these promoters. Knock-in expression of sigF revealed that only the sigC gene was significantly upregulated 6 and 12 h after sigF induction. The previously identified SigF promoter consensus sequence AGTTTG-N15-GGGTTT was identified in the 5′ UTR of the sigC gene, and SigF-dependent in vitro transcription of the promoter upstream of sigC was confirmed by using recombinant SigF-reconstituted RNA polymerase. These two knock-in recombinant strains were tested in a macrophage model of infection which showed that overexpression of sigB and sigF resulted in reduced rates of M. tuberculosis intracellular growth. These results define the SigB promoter consensus recognition sequence and members of the SigB regulon. Moreover, the data suggest that, in addition to serving as an end regulator in a sigma factor cascade, SigB may auto-amplify its own expression under certain conditions.
Bacillus subtilis sigma-B is an alternate sigma factor implicated in controlling stationary-phase gene expression. We characterized the genetic organization and regulation of the region containing the sigma-B structural gene (sigB) to learn which metabolic signals and protein factors govern sigma-B function. sigB lay in an operon with four open reading frames (orfs) in the order orfV-orfW-sigB-orfX, and lacZ gene fusions showed that all four frames were translated in vivo. Experiments with primer extension, S1 nuclease mapping, and lacZ transcriptional fusions found that sigB operon transcription initiated early in stationary phase from a site 32 nucleotides upstream of orfV and terminated 34 nucleotides downstream of orfX. Fusion expression was abolished in a strain carrying an in-frame deletion in sigB, suggesting that sigma-B positively regulated its own synthesis, and deletions in the sigB promoter region showed that sequences identical to the sigma-B-dependent ctc promoter were essential for promoter activity. Fusion expression was greatly enhanced in a strain carrying an insertion mutation in orfX, suggesting that the 22-kilodalton (kDa) orfX product was a negative effector of sigma-B expression or activity. Notably, the genetic organization of the sigB operon was strikingly similar to that of the B. subtilis spoIIA operon, which has the gene order spoIIAA-spoIIAB-spoIIAC, with spoIIAC encoding the sporulation-essential sigma-F. The predicted sequence of the 12-kDa orfV product was 32% identical to that of the 13-kDa SpoIIAA protein, and the 18-kDa orfW product was 27% identical to the 16-kDa SpoIIAB protein. On the basis of this clear evolutionary conservation, we speculate these protein pairs regulate their respective sigma factors by a similar molecular mechanism and that the spoIIA and sigB operons might control divergent branches of stationary-phase gene expression.
In a number of gram-positive bacteria, including Listeria, the general stress response is regulated by the alternative sigma factor B (SigB). Common stressors which lead to the activation of SigB and the SigB-dependent regulon are high osmolarity, acid and several more. Recently is has been shown that also blue and red light activates SigB in Bacillus subtilis.
By qRT-PCR we analyzed the transcriptional response of the pathogen L. monocytogenes to blue and red light in wild type bacteria and in isogenic deletion mutants for the putative blue-light receptor Lmo0799 and the stress sigma factor SigB. It was found that both blue (455 nm) and red (625 nm) light induced the transcription of sigB and SigB-dependent genes, this induction was completely abolished in the SigB mutant. The blue-light effect was largely dependent on Lmo0799, proving that this protein is a genuine blue-light receptor. The deletion of lmo0799 enhanced the red-light effect, the underlying mechanism as well as that of SigB activation by red light remains unknown. Blue light led to an increased transcription of the internalin A/B genes and of bacterial invasiveness for Caco-2 enterocytes. Exposure to blue light also strongly inhibited swimming motility of the bacteria in a Lmo0799- and SigB-dependent manner, red light had no effect there.
Our data established that visible, in particular blue light is an important environmental signal with an impact on gene expression and physiology of the non-phototrophic bacterium L. monocytogenes. In natural environments these effects will result in sometimes random but potentially also cyclic fluctuations of gene activity, depending on the light conditions prevailing in the respective habitat.
SigB is an alternative sigma factor that controls a large regulon in Staphylococcus aureus. Activation of SigB requires RsbU, a protein phosphatase 2C (PP2C)-type phosphatase. In a closely related organism, Bacillus subtilis, RsbU activity is stimulated upon interaction with RsbT, a kinase, which following an activating stimulus switches from a 25S high-molecular-weight complex, the stressosome, to the N-terminal domain of RsbU. Active RsbU dephosporylates RsbV and thereby triggers the release of SigB from its inhibitory complex with RsbW. While RsbU, RsbV, RsbW, and SigB are conserved in S. aureus, proteins similar to RsbT and the components of the stressosome are not, raising the question of how RsbU activity and hence SigB activity are controlled in S. aureus. We found that in contrast to the case in B. subtilis, the induced expression of RsbU was sufficient to stimulate SigB-dependent transcription in S. aureus. However, activation of SigB-dependent transcription following alkaline stress did not lead to a clear accumulation of SigB and its regulators RsbV and RsbW or to a change in the RsbV/RsbV-P ratio in S. aureus. When expressed in B. subtilis, the S. aureus RsbU displayed a high activity even in the absence of an inducing stimulus. This high activity could be transferred to the PP2C domain of the B. subtilis RsbU protein by a fusion to the N-terminal domain of the S. aureus RsbU. Collectively, the data suggest that the activity of the S. aureus RsbU and hence SigB may be subjected to different regulation in comparison to that in B. subtilis.
The sigA and sigB genes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis encode two sigma 70-like sigma factors of RNA polymerase. While transcription of the sigA gene is growth rate independent, sigB transcription is increased during entry into stationary phase. The sigA gene transcription is unresponsive to environmental stress but that of sigB is very responsive, more so in stationary-phase growth than in log-phase cultures. These data suggest that SigA is a primary sigma factor which, like ς70, controls the transcription of the housekeeping type of promoters. In contrast, SigB, although showing some overlap in function with SigA, is more like the alternative sigma factor, ςS, which controls the transcription of the gearbox type of promoters. Primer extension analysis identified the RNA start sites for both genes as 129 nucleotides upstream to the GTG start codon of sigA and 27 nucleotides from the ATG start codon of sigB. The −10 promoter of sigA but not that of sigB was similar to the ς70 promoter. The half-life of the sigA transcript was very long, and this is likely to play an important part in its regulation. In contrast, the half-life of the sigB transcript was short, about 2 min. These results demonstrate that the sigB gene may control the regulons of stationary phase and general stress resistance, while sigA may be involved in the housekeeping regulons.
A gene cluster encoding the alternative sigma factor σB, three predicted regulators of σB (RsbV, RsbW, and RsbY), and one protein whose function is not known (Orf4) was identified in the genome sequence of the food pathogen Bacillus cereus ATCC 14579. Western blotting with polyclonal antibodies raised against σB revealed that there was 20.1-fold activation of σB after a heat shock from 30 to 42°C. Osmotic upshock and ethanol exposure also upregulated σB, albeit less than a heat shock. When the intracellular ATP concentration was decreased by exposure to carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP), only limited increases in σB levels were observed, revealing that stress due to ATP depletion is not an important factor in σB activation in B. cereus. Analysis of transcription of the sigB operon by Northern blotting and primer extension revealed the presence of a σB-dependent promoter upstream of the first open reading frame (rsbV) of the sigB operon, indicating that transcription of sigB is autoregulated. A second σB-dependent promoter was identified upstream of the last open reading frame (orf4) of the sigB operon. Production of virulence factors and the nonhemolytic enterotoxin Nhe in a sigB null mutant was the same as in the parent strain. However, σB was found to play a role in the protective heat shock response of B. cereus. The sigB null mutant was less protected against the lethal temperature of 50°C by a preadaptation to 42°C than the parent strain was, resulting in a more-than-100-fold-reduced survival of the mutant after 40 min at 50°C.
General stress proteins protect Bacillus subtilis cells against a variety of environmental insults. This adaptive response is particularly important for nongrowing cells, to which it confers a multiple, nonspecific, and preemptive stress resistance. Induction of the general stress response relies on the alternative transcription factor, SigB, whose activity is controlled by a partner switching mechanism that also involves the anti-sigma factor, RsbW, and the antagonist protein, RsbV. Recently, the SigB regulon has been shown to be continuously induced and functionally important in cells actively growing at low temperature. With the exception of this chill induction, all SigB-activating stimuli identified so far trigger a transient expression of the SigB regulon that depends on RsbV. Through a proteome analysis and Northern blot and gene fusion experiments, we now show that the SigB regulon is continuously induced in cells growing actively at 51°C, close to the upper growth limit of B. subtilis. This heat induction of SigB-dependent genes requires the environmental stress-responsive phosphatase RsbU, but not the metabolic stress-responsive phosphatase RsbP. RsbU dependence of SigB activation by heat is overcome in mutants that lack RsbV. In addition, loss of RsbV alone or in combination with RsbU triggers a hyperactivation of the general stress regulon exclusively at high temperatures detrimental for cell growth. These new facets of heat induction of the SigB regulon indicate that the current view of the complex genetic and biochemical regulation of SigB activity is still incomplete and that SigB perceives signals independent of the RsbV-mediated signal transduction pathways under heat stress conditions.
We set out to analyze the sequence diversity of the Bacillus thuringiensis flagellin (H antigen [Hag]) protein and compare it with H serotype diversity. Some other Bacillus cereus sensu lato species and strains were added for comparison. The internal sequences of the flagellin (hag) alleles from 80 Bacillus thuringiensis strains and 16 strains from the B. cereus sensu lato group were amplified and cloned, and their nucleotide sequences were determined and translated into amino acids. The flagellin allele nucleotide sequences for 10 additional strains were retrieved from GenBank for a total of 106 Bacillus species and strains used in this study. These included 82 B. thuringiensis strains from 67 H serotypes, 5 B. cereus strains, 3 Bacillus anthracis strains, 3 Bacillus mycoides strains, 11 Bacillus weihenstephanensis strains, 1 Bacillus halodurans strain, and 1 Bacillus subtilis strain. The first 111 and the last 66 amino acids were conserved. They were referred to as the C1 and C2 regions, respectively. The central region, however, was highly variable and is referred to as the V region. Two bootstrapped neighbor-joining trees were generated: a first one from the alignment of the translated amino acid sequences of the amplified internal sequences of the hag alleles and a second one from the alignment of the V region amino acid sequences, respectively. Of the eight clusters revealed in the tree inferred from the entire C1-V-C2 region amino acid sequences, seven were present in corresponding clusters in the tree inferred from the V region amino acid sequences. With regard to B. thuringiensis, in most cases, different serovars had different flagellin amino acid sequences, as might have been expected. Surprisingly, however, some different B. thuringiensis serovars shared identical flagellin amino acid sequences. Likewise, serovars from the same H serotypes were most often found clustered together, with exceptions. Indeed, some serovars from the same H serotype carried flagellins with sufficiently different amino acid sequences as to be located on distant clusters. Species-wise, B. halodurans, B. subtilis, and B. anthracis formed specific branches, whereas the other four species, all in the B. cereus sensu lato group, B. mycoides, B. weihenstephanensis, B. cereus, and B. thuringiensis, did not form four specific clusters as might have been expected. Rather, strains from any of these four species were placed side by side with strains from the other species. In the B. cereus sensu lato group, B. anthracis excepted, the distribution of strains was not species specific.
The alternative sigma factor σB of Staphylococcus aureus controls the expression of a variety of genes, including virulence determinants and global regulators. Genetic manipulations and transcriptional start point (TSP) analyses showed that the sigB operon is transcribed from at least two differentially controlled promoters: a putative σA-dependent promoter, termed sigBp1, giving rise to a 3.6-kb transcript covering sa2059-sa2058-rsbU-rsbV-rsbW-sigB, and a σB-dependent promoter, sigBp3, initiating a 1.6-kb transcript covering rsbV-rsbW-sigB. TSP and promoter-reporter gene fusion experiments indicated that a third promoter, tentatively termed sigBp2 and proposed to lead to a 2.5-kb transcript, including rsbU-rsbV-rsbW-sigB, might govern the expression of the sigB operon. Environmental stresses, such as heat shock and salt stress, induced a rapid response within minutes from promoters sigBp1 and sigBp3. In vitro, the sigBp1 promoter was active in the early growth stages, while the sigBp2 and sigBp3 promoters produced transcripts throughout the growth cycle, with sigBp3 peaking around the transition state between exponential growth and stationary phase. The amount of sigB transcripts, however, did not reflect the concentration of σB measured in cell extracts, which remained constant over the entire growth cycle. In a guinea pig cage model of infection, sigB transcripts were as abundant 2 and 8 days postinoculation as values found in vitro, demonstrating that sigB is indeed transcribed during the course of infection. Physical interactions between staphylococcal RsbU-RsbV, RsbV-RsbW, and RsbW-σB were inferred from a yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) two-hybrid approach, indicating the presence of a partner-switching mechanism in the σB activation cascade similar to that of Bacillus subtilis. The finding that overexpression of RsbU was sufficient to trigger an immediate and strong activation of σB, however, signals a relevant difference in the regulation of σB activation between B. subtilis and S. aureus in the cascade upstream of RsbU.
SigB, a newly discovered alternative sigma factor of Staphylococcus aureus, has been shown to play an important role in stress responses and the regulation of virulence factors. The rsbW (orf159) gene is immediately upstream of sigB. Its gene product is homologous to Bacillus subtilis RsbW which under appropriate conditions binds to B. subtilis SigB and functions as an anti-sigma factor or negative posttranslational regulator. To define the function of S. aureus RsbW, both the S. aureus SigB and RsbW proteins were expressed in Escherichia coli and purified. Cross-linking experiments with these purified proteins revealed that RsbW was capable of specific binding to SigB. In an in vitro transcription runoff assay, RsbW prevented SigB-directed transcription from the sar P3 promoter, a known SigB-dependent promoter, and the inhibitory activity of RsbW was found to be concentration dependent. We also identified SigB promoter consensus sequences upstream of the genes encoding alkaline shock protein 23 and coagulase and have demonstrated SigB and RsbW dependence for the promoters in vitro. These results show that RsbW is a protein sequestering anti-sigma factor of S. aureus SigB and suggest that SigB activity in S. aureus is regulated posttranslationally.
The alternative sigma factor σB has an important role in the acquisition of stress resistance in many gram-positive bacteria, including the food-borne pathogen Bacillus cereus. Here, we describe the identification of the set of σB-regulated genes in B. cereus by DNA microarray analysis of the transcriptome upon a mild heat shock. Twenty-four genes could be identified as being σB dependent as witnessed by (i) significantly lower expression levels of these genes in mutants with a deletion of sigB and rsbY (which encode the alternative sigma factor σB and a crucial positive regulator of σB activity, respectively) than in the parental strain B. cereus ATCC 14579 and (ii) increased expression of these genes upon a heat shock. Newly identified σB-dependent genes in B. cereus include a histidine kinase and two genes that have predicted functions in spore germination. This study shows that the σB regulon of B. cereus is considerably smaller than that of other gram-positive bacteria. This appears to be in line with phylogenetic analyses where σB of the B. cereus group was placed close to the ancestral form of σB in gram-positive bacteria. The data described in this study and previous studies in which the complete σB regulon of the gram-positive bacteria Bacillus subtilis, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus were determined enabled a comparison of the sets of σB-regulated genes in the different gram-positive bacteria. This showed that only three genes (rsbV, rsbW, and sigB) are conserved in their σB dependency in all four bacteria, suggesting that the σB regulon of the different gram-positive bacteria has evolved to perform niche-specific functions.
A variety of environmental and metabolic cues trigger the transient activation of the alternative transcription factor SigB of Bacillus subtilis, which subsequently leads to the induction of more than 150 general stress genes. This general stress regulon provides nongrowing and nonsporulated cells with a multiple, nonspecific, and preemptive stress resistance. By a proteome approach we have detected the expression of the SigB regulon during continuous growth at low temperature (15°C). Using a combination of Western blot analysis and SigB-dependent reporter gene fusions, we provide evidence for high-level and persistent induction of the sigB operon and the SigB regulon, respectively, in cells continuously exposed to low temperatures. In contrast to all SigB-activating stimuli described thus far, induction by low temperatures does not depend on the positive regulatory protein RsbV or its regulatory phosphatases RsbU and RsbP, indicating the presence of an entirely new pathway for the activation of SigB by chill stress in B. subtilis. The physiological importance of the induction of the general stress response for the adaptation of B. subtilis to low temperatures is emphasized by the observation that growth of a sigB mutant is drastically impaired at 15°C. Inclusion of the compatible solute glycine betaine in the growth medium not only improved the growth of the wild-type strain but rescued the growth defect of the sigB mutant, indicating that the induction of the general stress regulon and the accumulation of glycine betaine are independent means by which B. subtilis cells cope with chill stress.
Corynebacterium glutamicum is a gram-positive soil bacterium widely used for the industrial production of amino acids. There is great interest in the examination of the molecular mechanism of transcription control. One of these control mechanisms are sigma factors. C. glutamicum ATCC 13032 has seven putative sigma factor-encoding genes, including sigA and sigB. The sigA gene encodes the essential primary sigma factor of C. glutamicum and is responsible for promoter recognition of house-keeping genes. The sigB gene codes for the non-essential sigma factor SigB that has a proposed role in stress reponse.
The sigB gene expression was highest at transition between exponential growth and stationary phase, when the amount of sigA mRNA was already decreasing. Genome-wide transcription profiles of the wild-type and the sigB mutant were recorded by comparative DNA microarray hybridizations. The data indicated that the mRNA levels of 111 genes are significantly changed in the sigB-proficient strain during the transition phase, whereas the expression profile of the sigB-deficient strain showed only minor changes (26 genes). The genes that are higher expressed during transition phase only in the sigB-proficient strain mainly belong to the functional categories amino acid metabolism, carbon metabolism, stress defense, membrane processes, and phosphorus metabolism. The transcription start points of six of these genes were determined and the deduced promoter sequences turned out to be indistinguishable from that of the consensus promoter recognized by SigA. Real-time reverse transcription PCR assays revealed that the expression profiles of these genes during growth were similar to that of the sigB gene itself. In the sigB mutant, however, the transcription profiles resembled that of the sigA gene encoding the house-keeping sigma factor.
During transition phase, the sigB gene showed an enhanced expression, while simultaneously the sigA mRNA decreased in abundance. This might cause a replacement of SigA by SigB at the RNA polymerase core enzyme and in turn results in increased expression of genes relevant for the transition and the stationary phase, either to cope with nutrient limitation or with the accompanying oxidative stress. The increased expression of genes encoding anti-oxidative or protection functions also prepares the cell for upcoming limitations and environmental stresses.
The phoPR operon encodes a response regulator, PhoP, and a histidine kinase, PhoR, which activate or repress genes of the Bacillus subtilis Pho regulon in response to an extracellular phosphate deficiency. Induction of phoPR upon phosphate starvation required activity of both PhoP and PhoR, suggesting autoregulation of the operon, a suggestion that is supported here by PhoP footprinting on the phoPR promoter. Primer extension analyses, using RNA from JH642 or isogenic sigE or sigB mutants isolated at different stages of growth and/or under different growth conditions, suggested that expression of the phoPR operon represents the sum of five promoters, each responding to a specific growth phase and environmental controls. The temporal expression of the phoPR promoters was investigated using in vitro transcription assays with RNA polymerase holoenzyme isolated at different stages of Pho induction, from JH642 or isogenic sigE or sigB mutants. In vitro transcription studies using reconstituted EσA, EσB, and EσE holoenzymes identified PA4 and PA3 as EσA promoters and PE2 as an EσE promoter. Phosphorylated PhoP (PhoP∼P) enhanced transcription from each of these promoters. EσB was sufficient for in vitro transcription of the PB1 promoter. P5 was active only in a sigB mutant strain. These studies are the first to report a role for PhoP∼P in activation of promoters that also have activity in the absence of Pho regulon induction and an activation role for PhoP∼P at an EσE promoter. Information concerning PB1 and P5 creates a basis for further exploration of the regulatory coordination or overlap of the PhoPR and SigB regulons during phosphate starvation.
The operon encoding the general stress transcription factor ςB and two proteins of its regulatory network, RsbV and RsbW, was cloned from the gram-positive bacterium Bacillus anthracis by PCR amplification of chromosomal DNA with degenerate primers, by inverse PCR, and by direct cloning. The gene cluster was very similar to the Bacillus subtilis sigB operon both in the primary sequences of the gene products and in the order of its three genes. However, the deduced products of sequences upstream and downstream from this operon showed no similarity to other proteins encoded by the B. subtilis sigB operon. Therefore, the B. anthracis sigB operon contains three genes rather than eight as in B. subtilis. The B. anthracis operon is preceded by a ςB-like promoter sequence, the expression of which depends on an intact ςB transcription factor in B. subtilis. It is followed by another open reading frame that is also preceded by a promoter sequence similarly dependent on B. subtilis ςB. We found that in B. anthracis, both these promoters were induced during the stationary phase and induction required an intact sigB gene. The sigB operon was induced by heat shock. Mutants from which sigB was deleted were constructed in a toxinogenic and a plasmidless strain. These mutants differed from the parental strains in terms of morphology. The toxinogenic sigB mutant strain was also less virulent than the parental strain in the mouse model. B. anthracis ςB may therefore be a minor virulence factor.
Bacillus species are spore-forming bacteria that are ubiquitous in the environment and display a range of virulent and avirulent phenotypes. This range is particularly evident in the Bacillus cereus sensu lato group; where closely related strains cause anthrax, food-borne illnesses, and pneumonia, but can also be non-pathogenic. Although much of this phenotypic range can be attributed to the presence or absence of a few key virulence factors, there are other virulence-associated loci that are conserved throughout the B. cereus group, and we hypothesized that these genes may be regulated differently in pathogenic and non-pathogenic strains.
Here we report transcriptional profiles of three closely related but phenotypically unique members of the Bacillus cereus group—a pneumonia-causing B. cereus strain (G9241), an attenuated strain of B. anthracis (Sterne 34F2), and an avirulent B. cereus strain (10987)—during exponential growth in two distinct atmospheric environments: 14% CO2/bicarbonate and ambient air. We show that the disease-causing Bacillus strains undergo more distinctive transcriptional changes between the two environments, and that the expression of plasmid-encoded virulence genes was increased exclusively in the CO2 environment. We observed a core of conserved metabolic genes that were differentially expressed in all three strains in both conditions. Additionally, the expression profiles of putative virulence genes in G9241 suggest that this strain, unlike Bacillus anthracis, may regulate gene expression with both PlcR and AtxA transcriptional regulators, each acting in a different environment.
We have shown that homologous and even identical genes within the genomes of three closely related members of the B. cereus sensu lato group are in some instances regulated very differently, and that these differences can have important implications for virulence. This study provides insights into the evolution of the B. cereus group, and highlights the importance of looking beyond differences in gene content in comparative genomics studies.
Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) offers an alternative method for the detection of bacterial contamination in food. This method provides the quantitation and determination of the number of gene copies. In our study, we established an RT-PCR assay using the LightCycler system to detect and quantify the Bacillus cereus group species, which includes B. cereus, B. anthracis, B. thuringiensis, B. weihenstephanensis, B. mycoides, and B. pseudomycoides. A TaqMan assay was designed to detect a 285-bp fragment of the motB gene encoding the flagellar motor protein, which was specific for the detection of the B. cereus group species, excluding B. pseudomycoides, and the detection of a 217-bp gene fragment of a hypothetical protein specific only for B. pseudomycoides strains. Based on three hydrolysis probes (MotB-FAM-1, MotB-FAM-2, and Bpm-FAM-1), it was possible to differentiate B. weihenstephanensis from the B. cereus group species with nonrhizoid growth and B. pseudomycoides from the whole B. cereus group. The specificity of the assay was confirmed with 119 strains belonging to the Bacillus cereus group species and was performed against 27 other Bacillus and non-Bacillus bacteria. A detection limit was determined for each assay. The assays performed well not only with purified DNA but also with DNA extracted from milk samples artificially contaminated with bacteria that belong to the B. cereus group species. This technique represents an alternative approach to traditional culture methods for the differentiation of B. cereus group species and differentiates B. weihenstephanensis and B. pseudomycoides in one reaction.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a specialized intracellular pathogen that must regulate gene expression to overcome stresses produced by host defenses during infection. SigH is an alternative sigma factor that we have previously shown plays a role in the response to stress of the saprophyte Mycobacterium smegmatis. In this work we investigated the role of sigH in the M. tuberculosis response to heat and oxidative stress. We determined that a M. tuberculosis sigH mutant is more susceptible to oxidative stresses and that the inducible expression of the thioredoxin reductase/thioredoxin genes trxB2/trxC and a gene of unknown function, Rv2466c, is regulated by sigH via expression from promoters directly recognized by SigH. We also determined that the sigH mutant is more susceptible to heat stress and that inducible expression of the heat shock genes dnaK and clpB is positively regulated by sigH. The induction of these heat shock gene promoters but not of other SigH-dependent promoters was markedly greater in response to heat versus oxidative stress, consistent with their additional regulation by a heat-labile repressor. To further understand the role of sigH in the M. tuberculosis stress response, we investigated the regulation of the stress-responsive sigma factor genes sigE and sigB. We determined that inducible expression of sigE is regulated by sigH and that basal and inducible expression of sigB is dependent on sigE and sigH. These data indicate that sigH plays a central role in a network that regulates heat and oxidative-stress responses that are likely to be important in M. tuberculosis pathogenesis.
We have identified a gene cluster located on the chromosomal SmaI I fragment of a highly methicillin resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus, consisting of four open reading frames (ORFs), named after the number of deduced amino acid residues, in the sequential order orf333-orf108-orf159-orf256. The gene cluster showed close similarities to the Bacillus subtilis sigB operon both in overall organization and in primary sequences of the gene products. The complete gene cluster (provisionally named sigma-B or sigB) was preceded by an sigmaA-like promoter (PA) and had an internal sigmaB-like promoter sequence (PB) between orf333 and orf108, suggesting a complex regulatory mechanism. The polypeptides encoded by orf333, -108, -159, and -256 showed 62, 67, 71, and 77% homologies, respectively, with the RsbU, RsbV, RsbW, and SigB polypeptides encoded by the B. subtilis sigB operon. A Tn551 insertional mutant, RUSA168 (insert in orf256 of the staphylococcal sigma-B operon), showed drastic reduction in methicillin resistance (decrease in MIC from 1,600 microg ml-1 to 12 to 25 microg ml-1off
The sigB gene of Corynebacterium glutamicum encodes a group 2 sigma factor of RNA polymerase. Under conditions of oxygen deprivation, the sigB gene is upregulated and cells exhibit high productivity of organic acids as a result of an elevated glucose consumption rate. Using DNA microarray and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) analyses, we found that sigB disruption led to reduced transcript levels of genes involved in the metabolism of glucose into organic acids. This in turn resulted in retardation of glucose consumption by cells under conditions of oxygen deprivation. These results indicate that SigB is involved in positive regulation of glucose metabolism genes and enhances glucose consumption under conditions of oxygen deprivation. Moreover, sigB disruption reduced the transcript levels of genes involved in various cellular functions, including the glucose metabolism genes not only in the growth-arrested cells under conditions of oxygen deprivation but also in the cells during aerobic exponential growth, suggesting that SigB functions as another vegetative sigma factor.
The iron-dependent transcriptional regulator DtxR from Corynebacterium diphtheriae is the prototype for a family of metal-dependent regulators found in diverse bacterial species. The structure of DtxR and its action as a repressor have been extensively characterized, but little is known about expression of dtxR. In the current study, we investigated transcription of dtxR as well as the sigB and galE genes located immediately upstream and downstream from dtxR, respectively. We identified two promoters that determine transcription of dtxR. The first, located upstream of sigB, appears to be controlled by an extracytoplasmic function σ factor. The second, located in the intergenic region between sigB and dtxR, is similar to promoters used by the primary vegetative σ factors in other actinomycete species. Using quantitative real-time assays, we demonstrated that the number of transcripts initiated upstream from sigB is affected by several environmental factors. In contrast, the presence of sodium dodecyl sulfate was the only factor tested that conclusively affects the number of transcripts initiated in the sigB-dtxR intergenic region. Additionally, we provided evidence for the existence of transcripts that contain sigB, dtxR, and galE. Our studies provide the first quantitative transcriptional analysis of a gene encoding a DtxR family regulator and give new insights into transcriptional regulation in C. diphtheriae.
To evaluate the role of SigB in modulating the expression of virulence determinants in Staphylococcus aureus, we constructed a sigB mutant of RN6390, a prototypic S. aureus strain. The mutation in the sigB gene was confirmed by the absence of the SigB protein in the mutant on an immunoblot as well as the failure of the mutant to activate ςB-dependent promoters (e.g., the sarC promoter) of S. aureus. Phenotypic analysis indicated that both alpha-hemolysin level and fibrinogen-binding capacity were up-regulated in the mutant strain compared with the parental strain. The increase in fibrinogen-binding capacity correlated with enhanced expression of clumping factor and coagulase on immunoblots. The effect of the sigB mutation on the enhanced expression of the alpha-hemolysin gene (hla) was primarily transcriptional. Upon complementation with a plasmid containing the sigB gene, hla expression returned to near parental levels in the mutant. Detailed immunoblot analysis as well as a competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay of the cell extract of the sigB mutant with anti-SarA monoclonal antibody 1D1 revealed that the expression of SarA was higher in the mutant than in the parental control. Despite an elevated SarA level, the transcription of RNAII and RNAIII of the agr locus remained unaltered in the sigB mutant. Because of a lack of perturbation in agr, we hypothesize that inactivation of sigB leads to increased expression of SarA which, in turn, modulates target genes via an agr-independent but SarA-dependent pathway.
The plasmids of the members of the Bacillus cereus sensu lato group of organisms are essential in defining the phenotypic traits associated with pathogenesis and ecology. For example, Bacillus anthracis contains two plasmids, pXO1 and pXO2, encoding toxin production and encapsulation, respectively, that define this species pathogenic potential, whereas the presence of a Bt toxin-encoding plasmid defines Bacillus thuringiensis isolates. In this study the plasmids from B. cereus isolates that produce emetic toxin or are linked to periodontal disease were sequenced and analyzed. Two periodontal isolates examined contained almost identical ∼272-kb plasmids, named pPER272. The emetic toxin-producing isolate contained one ∼270-kb plasmid, named pCER270, encoding the cereulide biosynthesis gene cluster. Comparative sequence analyses of these B. cereus plasmids revealed a high degree of sequence similarity to the B. anthracis pXO1 plasmid, especially in a putative replication region. These plasmids form a newly defined group of pXO1-like plasmids. However, these novel plasmids do not contain the pXO1 pathogenicity island, which in each instance is replaced by plasmid specific DNA. Plasmids pCER270 and pPER272 share regions that are not found in any other pXO1-like plasmids. Evolutionary studies suggest that these plasmids are more closely related to each other than to other identified B. cereus plasmids. Screening of a population of B. cereus group isolates revealed that pXO1-like plasmids are more often found in association with clinical isolates. This study demonstrates that the pXO1-like plasmids may define pathogenic B. cereus isolates in the same way that pXO1 and pXO2 define the B. anthracis species.