The Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factor σ(M) is inducible by, and confers resistance to, several cell envelope-acting antibiotics. Here, we demonstrate that σ(M) is responsible for intrinsic β-lactam resistance, with σ(X) playing a secondary role. Activation of σ(M) upregulates several cell wall biosynthetic enzymes including one, PBP1, shown here to be a target for the beta-lactam cefuroxime. However, σ(M) still plays a major role in cefuroxime resistance even in cells lacking PBP1. To better define the role of σ(M) in β-lactam resistance, we characterized suppressor mutations that restore cefuroxime resistance to a sigM null mutant. The most frequent suppressors inactivated gdpP (yybT) which encodes a cyclic-di-AMP phosphodiesterase (PDE). Intriguingly, σ(M) is a known activator of disA encoding one of three paralogous diadenylate cyclases (DAC). Overproduction of the GdpP PDE greatly sensitized cells to β-lactam antibiotics. Conversely, genetic studies indicate that at least one DAC is required for growth with depletion leading to cell lysis. These findings support a model in which c-di-AMP is an essential signal molecule required for cell wall homeostasis. Other suppressors highlight the roles of ECF σ factors in counteracting the deleterious effects of autolysins and reactive oxygen species in β-lactam-treated cells.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.