Identification of AbrB-regulated genes involved in biofilm formation by Bacillus subtilis

Mol Microbiol. 2004 May;52(3):847-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04023.x.


Bacillus subtilis is a ubiquitous soil bacterium that forms biofilms in a process that is negatively controlled by the transcription factor AbrB. To identify the AbrB-regulated genes required for biofilm formation by B. subtilis, genome-wide expression profiling studies of biofilms formed by spo0A abrB and sigH abrB mutant strains were performed. These data, in concert with previously published DNA microarray analysis of spo0A and sigH mutant strains, led to the identification of 39 operons that appear to be repressed by AbrB. Eight of these operons had previously been shown to be repressed by AbrB, and we confirmed AbrB repression for a further six operons by reverse transcription-PCR. The AbrB-repressed genes identified in this study are involved in processes known to be regulated by AbrB, such as extracellular degradative enzyme production and amino acid metabolism, and processes not previously known to be regulated by AbrB, such as membrane bioenergetics and cell wall functions. To determine whether any of these AbrB-regulated genes had a role in biofilm formation, we tested 23 mutants, each with a disruption in a different AbrB-regulated operon, for the ability to form biofilms. Two mutants had a greater than twofold defect in biofilm formation. A yoaW mutant exhibited a biofilm structure with reduced depth, and a sipW mutant exhibited only surface-attached cells and did not form a mature biofilm. YoaW is a putative secreted protein, and SipW is a signal peptidase. This is the first evidence that secreted proteins have a role in biofilm formation by Bacillus subtilis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics*
  • Bacillus subtilis / physiology
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biofilms*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genotype
  • Mutation
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Operon
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • AbrB protein, Bacillus subtilis
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors