Binding of response regulator DegU to the aprE promoter is inhibited by RapG, which is counteracted by extracellular PhrG in Bacillus subtilis

Mol Microbiol. 2003 Sep;49(6):1685-97. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2003.03665.x.


We screened the putative rap-phr (response regulator aspartyl-phosphate phosphatase-phosphatase regulator) systems identified in the Bacillus subtilis genome for a rap gene that affects aprE (alkaline protease gene) expression by using a multicopy plasmid. We found that rapG was involved in the regulation of aprE, which belongs to the regulon of DegU, the response regulator of the DegS-DegU two-component system. Disruption of rapG and phrG resulted in enhancement and reduction of aprE-lacZ expression, respectively, suggesting that PhrG inhibits RapG activity. Addition of 1-30 nM of a synthetic pentapeptide (PhrG; NH2-EKMIG-COOH) to the phrG disruptant completely rescued aprE-lacZ expression, indicating that the PhrG peptide is indeed involved in aprE-lacZ expression. Surprisingly, either introduction of multicopy phrG or addition of the PhrG peptide at high concentrations (100-300 nM) to the phrG cells decreased aprE-lacZ expression. These results are reminiscent of the previous observation that at higher concentrations the PhrC peptide inhibits srfA-lacZ expression directed by ComA, the regulator of the ComP-ComA two-component system. Because the Rap proteins belong to a family of aspartyl protein phosphatases, we tried to investigate the possible influence of RapG on dephosphorylation of DegU-P (phosphorylated DegU) in vitro. RapG, however, did not affect dephosphorylation of DegU-P under the adopted experimental conditions. Therefore, we hypothesized that RapG might inhibit the binding activity of DegU to the target promoters. We analysed the interaction of DegU and RapG using the aprE promoter and another target, a comK promoter. Gel shift analysis revealed that RapG served as the inhibitor of DegU binding to the promoter regions of aprE and comK and that this inhibition was counteracted by the PhrG peptide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Gene Fusion
  • Autoradiography
  • Bacillus subtilis / cytology
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics*
  • Bacillus subtilis / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Blotting, Northern
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Gene Dosage
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Operon / genetics
  • Phosphorylation
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Regulon*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism


  • AprE protein, Bacteria
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DegU protein, Bacteria
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • beta-Galactosidase