ComX improves acid tolerance by regulating the expression of late competence proteins in Lactococcus lactis F44

J Dairy Sci. 2021 Sep;104(9):9556-9569. doi: 10.3168/jds.2021-20184. Epub 2021 Jun 17.


ComX can improve bacterial competence by modulating global gene expression. Although competence induction may also be a protective mechanism under stress, this has not been investigated in detail. Here, we demonstrated that ComX improved the acid tolerance and nisin yield of Lactococcus lactis, which is an important gram-positive bacterium increasingly used in modern biotechnological applications. We found that overexpression of comX could improve the survival rate up to 36.5% at pH 4.0, compared with only 5.4% and 1.1% with the wild-type and comX knockout strains, respectively. Moreover, quantitative real-time PCR results indicated that comX overexpression stimulated the expression of late competence genes synergistically with exposure to acid stress. Finally, electrophoretic mobility shift assay demonstrated the binding of purified ComX to the cin-box in the promoters of these genes. Taken together, our results reveal a regulation mechanism by which ComX and acid stress can synergistically modulate the expression of late competence genes to enhance cells' acid tolerance and nisin yield.

Keywords: ComX; Lactococcus lactis; acid tolerance; late competence proteins.

MeSH terms

  • Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Lactococcus lactis* / genetics
  • Lactococcus lactis* / metabolism
  • Nisin* / genetics


  • Acids
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Nisin