A two-step transport pathway allows the mother cell to nurture the developing spore in Bacillus subtilis

Publication Type:
Journal Article
PLoS Genetics, 2017, 13 (9)
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© 2017 Ramírez-Guadiana et al. One of the hallmarks of bacterial endospore formation is the accumulation of high concentrations of pyridine-2,6-dicarboxylic acid (dipicolinic acid or DPA) in the developing spore. This small molecule comprises 5–15% of the dry weight of dormant spores and plays a central role in resistance to both wet heat and desiccation. DPA is synthesized in the mother cell at a late stage in sporulation and must be translocated across two membranes (the inner and outer forespore membranes) that separate the mother cell and forespore. The enzymes that synthesize DPA and the proteins required to translocate it across the inner forespore membrane were identified over two decades ago but the factors that transport DPA across the outer forespore membrane have remained mysterious. Here, we report that SpoVV (formerly YlbJ) is the missing DPA transporter. SpoVV is produced in the mother cell during the morphological process of engulfment and specifically localizes in the outer forespore membrane. Sporulating cells lacking SpoVV produce spores with low levels of DPA and cells engineered to express SpoVV and the DPA synthase during vegetative growth accumulate high levels of DPA in the culture medium. SpoVV resembles concentrative nucleoside transporters and mutagenesis of residues predicted to form the substrate-binding pocket supports the idea that SpoVV has a similar structure and could therefore function similarly. These findings provide a simple two-step transport mechanism by which the mother cell nurtures the developing spore. DPA produced in the mother cell is first translocated into the intermembrane space by SpoVV and is then imported into the forespore by the SpoVA complex. This pathway is likely to be broadly conserved as DPA synthase, SpoVV, and SpoVA proteins can be found in virtually all endospore forming bacteria.
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