A new highly conserved antibiotic sensing/resistance pathway in firmicutes involves an ABC transporter interplaying with a signal transduction system

PLoS One. 2011 Jan 19;6(1):e15951. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015951.


Signal transduction systems and ABC transporters often contribute jointly to adaptive bacterial responses to environmental changes. In Bacillus subtilis, three such pairs are involved in responses to antibiotics: BceRSAB, YvcPQRS and YxdJKLM. They are characterized by a histidine kinase belonging to the intramembrane sensing kinase family and by a translocator possessing an unusually large extracytoplasmic loop. It was established here using a phylogenomic approach that systems of this kind are specific but widespread in Firmicutes, where they originated. The present phylogenetic analyses brought to light a highly dynamic evolutionary history involving numerous horizontal gene transfers, duplications and lost events, leading to a great variety of Bce-like repertories in members of this bacterial phylum. Based on these phylogenetic analyses, it was proposed to subdivide the Bce-like modules into six well-defined subfamilies. Functional studies were performed on members of subfamily IV comprising BceRSAB from B. subtilis, the expression of which was found to require the signal transduction system as well as the ABC transporter itself. The present results suggest, for the members of this subfamily, the occurrence of interactions between one component of each partner, the kinase and the corresponding translocator. At functional and/or structural levels, bacitracin dependent expression of bceAB and bacitracin resistance processes require the presence of the BceB translocator loop. Some other members of subfamily IV were also found to participate in bacitracin resistance processes. Taken together our study suggests that this regulatory mechanism might constitute an important common antibiotic resistance mechanism in Firmicutes. [Supplemental material is available online at http://www.genome.org.].

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Bacillus subtilis / physiology*
  • Bacteria
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Histidine Kinase
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Kinases
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Signal Transduction*


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Protein Kinases
  • Histidine Kinase