Bacterial competition reveals differential regulation of the pks genes by Bacillus subtilis. Academic Article uri icon


  • Bacillus subtilis is adaptable to many environments in part due to its ability to produce a broad range of bioactive compounds. One such compound, bacillaene, is a linear polyketide/nonribosomal peptide. The pks genes encode the enzymatic megacomplex that synthesizes bacillaene. The majority of pks genes appear to be organized as a giant operon (>74 kb from pksC-pksR). In previous work (P. D. Straight, M. A. Fischbach, C. T. Walsh, D. Z. Rudner, and R. Kolter, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 104:305-310, 2007, doi:10.1073/pnas.0609073103), a deletion of the pks operon in B. subtilis was found to induce prodiginine production by Streptomyces coelicolor. Here, colonies of wild-type B. subtilis formed a spreading population that induced prodiginine production from Streptomyces lividans, suggesting differential regulation of pks genes and, as a result, bacillaene. While the parent colony showed widespread induction of pks expression among cells in the population, we found the spreading cells uniformly and transiently repressed the expression of the pks genes. To identify regulators that control pks genes, we first determined the pattern of pks gene expression in liquid culture. We next identified mutations in regulatory genes that disrupted the wild-type pattern of pks gene expression. We found that expression of the pks genes requires the master regulator of development, Spo0A, through its repression of AbrB and the stationary-phase regulator, CodY. Deletions of degU, comA, and scoC had moderate effects, disrupting the timing and level of pks gene expression. The observed patterns of expression suggest that complex regulation of bacillaene and other antibiotics optimizes competitive fitness for B. subtilis.

published proceedings

  • J Bacteriol

altmetric score

  • 4.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Vargas-Bautista, C., Rahlwes, K., & Straight, P.

citation count

  • 50

complete list of authors

  • Vargas-Bautista, Carol||Rahlwes, Kathryn||Straight, Paul

publication date

  • February 2014