HtrC Is Involved in Proteolysis of YpeB during Germination of Bacillus anthracis and Bacillus subtilis Spores
Bacterial endospores can remain dormant for decades yet can respond to nutrients, germinate, and resume growth within minutes. An essential step in the germination process is degradation of the spore cortex peptidoglycan wall, and the SleB protein in Bacillus species plays a key role in this process. Stable incorporation of SleB into the spore requires the YpeB protein, and some evidence suggests that the two proteins interact within the dormant spore. Early during germination, YpeB is proteolytically processed to a stable fragment. In this work, the primary sites of YpeB cleavage were identified in Bacillus anthracis, and it was shown that the stable products are comprised of the C-terminal domain of YpeB. Modification of the predominant YpeB cleavage sites reduced proteolysis, but cleavage at other sites still resulted in loss of full-length YpeB. A B. anthracis strain lacking the HtrC protease did not generate the same stable YpeB products. In B. anthracis and Bacillus subtilis htrC mutants, YpeB was partially stabilized during germination but was still degraded at a reduced rate by other, unidentified proteases. Purified HtrC cleaved YpeB to a fragment similar to that observed in vivo, and this cleavage was stimulated by Mn2+ or Ca2+ ions. A lack of HtrC did not stabilize YpeB or SleB during spore formation in the absence of the partner protein, indicating other proteases are involved in their degradation during sporulation.