Proteolysis of beta-galactosidase following SigmaB activation in Bacillus subtilis

Mol Biosyst. 2012 Jun;8(6):1806-14. doi: 10.1039/c2mb25031d. Epub 2012 Apr 17.


In Bacillus subtilis the σ(B) mediated general stress response provides protection against various environmental and energy related stress conditions. To better understand the general stress response, we need to explore the mechanism by which the components interact. Here, we performed experiments in B. subtilis wild type and mutant strains to test and validate a mathematical model of the dynamics of σ(B) activity. In the mutant strain BSA115, σ(B) transcription is inducible by the addition of IPTG and negative control of σ(B) activity by the anti-sigma factor RsbW is absent. In contrast to our expectations of a continuous β-galactosidase activity from a ctc::lacZ fusion, we observed a transient activity in the mutant. To explain this experimental finding, we constructed mathematical models reflecting different hypotheses regarding the regulation of σ(B) and β-galactosidase dynamics. Only the model assuming instability of either ctc::lacZ mRNA or β-galactosidase protein is able to reproduce the experiments in silico. Subsequent Northern blot experiments revealed stable high-level ctc::lacZ mRNA concentrations after the induction of the σ(B) response. Therefore, we conclude that protein instability following σ(B) activation is the most likely explanation for the experimental observations. Our results thus support the idea that B. subtilis increases the cytoplasmic proteolytic degradation to adapt the proteome in face of environmental challenges following activation of the general stress response. The findings also have practical implications for the analysis of stress response dynamics using lacZ reporter gene fusions, a frequently used strategy for the σ(B) response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics*
  • Bacillus subtilis / physiology
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Enzyme Stability
  • Lac Operon
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Proteolysis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sigma Factor / genetics
  • Sigma Factor / metabolism*
  • Sigma Factor / physiology
  • Solutions
  • Systems Biology / methods*
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics
  • beta-Galactosidase / genetics
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RsbW protein, bacteria
  • SigB protein, Bacteria
  • Sigma Factor
  • Solutions
  • beta-Galactosidase
  • Peptide Hydrolases