Comparison of ribitol and glycerol teichoic acid genes in Bacillus subtilis W23 and 168: identical function, similar divergent organization, but different regulation

Microbiology (Reading). 2002 Mar;148(Pt 3):815-24. doi: 10.1099/00221287-148-3-815.


The tar genes directing the synthesis of poly(ribitol phosphate), the main teichoic acid in Bacillus subtilis strain W23, were sequenced. They are organized in two divergently transcribed operons, tarABIJKL and tarDF, as are the tag genes specifying poly(glycerol phosphate) synthesis in B. subtilis 168. The features of the tar genes as well as the putative participation of their products in the proposed biosynthesis pathway of poly(ribitol phosphate) are presented. The tarA and tarD genes, which are most likely involved in the synthesis of the linkage unit (the entity coupling teichoic acid to peptidoglycan), are separated by 508 nt. Sequences of the outer segments of this regulatory region are similar to the two divergent promoter regions identified upstream of the tagA and tagD genes in strain 168. However, in W23, these regions, which also included functional promoters, are separated by an additional DNA segment of about 100 nt, on which two new mRNA starts, one in each direction, were identified. The regulatory regions of teichoic acid divergons of Bacillus globigii, Bacillus licheniformis and eight strains of B. subtilis were cloned and sequenced. In four B. subtilis strains and in B. globigii, their length and sequence are similar to the regulatory region of W23. In the others, including B. licheniformis, they are of the 168-type. Analysis of nucleotide sequences of a non-coding grey hole, present in the tag region of strain 168, revealed higher similarities to tar than to tag entities. This suggests that at least part of the tag genes specifying the synthesis of glucosylated poly(glycerol phosphate) in strain 168 was introduced by horizontal gene transfer into a strain originally synthesizing a ribitol-phosphate-containing teichoic acid.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics*
  • Bacillus subtilis / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Glycerophosphates / genetics
  • Glycerophosphates / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polysaccharides / genetics
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Teichoic Acids / genetics*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Glycerophosphates
  • Polysaccharides
  • Teichoic Acids
  • ribitol teichoic acid
  • polyribitol phosphate
  • polyglycerolphosphate

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AJ313428
  • GENBANK/AJ318465
  • GENBANK/AJ318466
  • GENBANK/AJ318467
  • GENBANK/AJ318468
  • GENBANK/AJ318469
  • GENBANK/AJ318470