The general stress response of Bacillus subtilis is controlled by the activity state of the σB transcription factor. Physical stress is communicated to σB via a large-molecular-mass (>10 6-Da) structure (the stressosome) formed by one or more members of a family of homologous proteins (RsbR, YkoB, YojH, YqhA). The positive regulator (RsbT) of the σ stress induction pathway is incorporated into the complex bound to an inhibitor protein (RsbS). Exposure to stress empowers an RsbT-dependent phosphorylation of RsbR and RsbS, with the subsequent release of RsbT to activate downstream processes. The mechanism by which stress initiates these reactions is unknown. In an attempt to identify changes in stressosome components that could lead to σB activation, a DNA segment encoding these proteins was mutagenized and placed into B. subtilis to create a merodiploid strain for these genes. Eight mutations that allowed heightened σB activity in the presence of their wild-type counterparts were isolated. Two of the mutations are missense changes in rsbR, and six are amino acid changes in rsbS. Additional experiments suggested that both of the rsbR mutations and three of the rsbS mutations likely enhance σB activity by elevating the level of RsbS phosphorylation. All of the mutations were found to be dominant over wild-type alleles only when they are cotranscribed within an rsbR rsbS rsbT operon. The data suggest that changes in RsbR can initiate the downstream events that lead to σB activation and that RsbR, RsbS, and RsbT likely interact with each other concomitantly with their synthesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology