Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Spo0A is a phosphorylation-activated transcription factor of Bacillus subtilis. It is a member of the response regulator super-family of bacterial signal transduction proteins and controls many of the changes in gene expression that occur during the transition into stationary phase and during the initiation of speculation. To identify the domains of Spo0A most critical for determining its structural and functional features, presumptive homologues of the spo0A gene were characterized in a collection of eight Bacillus species and six Clostridium species representing phylogenetically diverse members of these genera. An alignment of the partial or complete DNA sequences of these homologues revealed three regions of especially high conservation in the effector domain. We speculate that the most highly conserved of these corresponds to the recognition helix of a putative helix-turn-helix motif, and, therefore, represents the actual DNA-contacting surface of the protein. In the case of homologues identified in Bacillus anthracis and Clostridium acetobutylicum and retrieved by polymerase chain reaction amplification, we confirmed by gene-disruption analysis that the homologue actually is required for initiation of sporulation. Apparent homologues of the B. subtilis spolVB gene were also discovered immediately upstream from the spo0A homologues in all Bacillus and Clostridium species examined. The discovery of homologues of B. subtilis sporulation genes in these diverse species implies that the gene products required for specifying pathways of sporulation-specific gene activation and for determining key morphogenetic changes may be highly conserved and suggests that an approach similar to that undertaken here might be used as a general strategy to retrieve and compare their gene sequences. Exhaustive efforts to detect a spo0A-like gene in non-endospore formers, including close relatives of Bacillus such as Listeria and Staphylococcus, were uniformly unsuccessful, suggesting that regulation of gene activity during the transition into stationary phase mediated by Spo0A-like proteins may be exclusive to the endospore-forming bacteria.
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