Role of YpeB in Cortex Hydrolysis during Germination of Bacillus anthracis Spores
Bernhards, Casey B.
Popham, David L.
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The infectious agent of the disease anthrax is the spore of Bacillus anthracis. Bacterial spores are extremely resistant to environmental stresses, which greatly hinders spore decontamination efforts. The spore cortex, a thick layer of modified peptidoglycan, contributes to spore dormancy and resistance by maintaining the low water content of the spore core. The cortex is degraded by germination-specific lytic enzymes (GSLEs) during spore germination, rendering the cells vulnerable to common disinfection techniques. This study investigates the relationship between SleB, a GSLE in B. anthracis, and YpeB, a protein necessary for SleB stability and function. The results indicate that Delta sleB and Delta ypeB spores exhibit similar germination phenotypes and that the two proteins have a strict codependency for their incorporation into the dormant spore. In the absence of its partner protein, SleB or YpeB is proteolytically degraded soon after expression during sporulation, rather than escaping the developing spore. The three PepSY domains of YpeB were examined for their roles in the interaction with SleB. YpeB truncation mutants illustrate the necessity of a region beyond the first PepSY domain for SleB stability. Furthermore, site-directed mutagenesis of highly conserved residues within the PepSY domains resulted in germination defects corresponding to reduced levels of both SleB and YpeB in the mutant spores. These results identify residues involved in the stability of both proteins and reiterate their codependent relationship. It is hoped that the study of GSLEs and interacting proteins will lead to the use of GSLEs as targets for efficient activation of spore germination and facilitation of spore cleanup.