The Composition of the Cell Envelope Affects Conjugation in Bacillus subtilis
Author(s)Johnson, Christopher M; Grossman, Alan Davis
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Conjugation in bacteria is the contact-dependent transfer of DNA from one cell to another via donor-encoded conjugation machinery. It is a major type of horizontal gene transfer between bacteria. Conjugation of the integrative and conjugative element ICEBs1 into Bacillus subtilis is affected by the composition of phospholipids in the cell membranes of the donor and recipient. We found that reduction (or elimination) of lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol caused by loss of mprF caused a decrease in conjugation efficiency. Conversely, alterations that caused an increase in lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol, including loss of ugtP or overproduction of mprF, caused an increase in conjugation efficiency. In addition, we found that mutations that alter production of other phospholipids, e.g., loss of clsA and yfnI, also affected conjugation, apparently without substantively altering levels of lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol, indicating that there are multiple pathways by which changes to the cell envelope affect conjugation. We found that the contribution of mprF to conjugation was affected by the chemical environment. Wild-type cells were generally more responsive to addition of anions that enhanced conjugation, whereas mprF mutant cells were more sensitive to combinations of anions that inhibited conjugation at pH 7. Our results indicate that mprF and lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol allow cells to maintain relatively consistent conjugation efficiencies under a variety of ionic conditions. IMPORTANCE Horizontal gene transfer is a driving force in microbial evolution, enabling cells that receive DNA to acquire new genes and phenotypes. Conjugation, the contact-dependent transfer of DNA from a donor to a recipient by a donor-encoded secretion machine, is a prevalent type of horizontal gene transfer. Although critically important, it is not well understood how the recipient influences the success of conjugation. We found that the composition of phospholipids in the membranes of donors and recipients influences the success of transfer of the integrative and conjugative element ICEBs1 in Bacillus subtilis. Specifically, the presence of lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol enables relatively constant conjugation efficiencies in a range of diverse chemical environments.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biology
Journal of Bacteriology
American Society for Microbiology
Johnson, Christopher M., and Alan D. Grossman. “The Composition of the Cell Envelope Affects Conjugation in Bacillus Subtilis.” Ed. P. J. Christie. Journal of Bacteriology 198.8 (2016): 1241–1249.
Author's final manuscript