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Recent Publication

The Penicillin-Binding Protein PbpP Is a Sensor of β-Lactams and Is Required for Activation of the Extracytoplasmic Function σ Factor σP in Bacillus thuringiensis


β-Lactams are a class of antibiotics that target the synthesis of peptidoglycan, an essential component of the cell wall. β-Lactams inhibit the function of penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs), which form the cross-links between strands of peptidoglycan. Resistance to β-lactams complicates the treatment of bacterial infections. In recent years, the spread of β-lactam resistance has increased with growing intensity. Resistance is often conferred by β-lactamases, which inactivate β-lactams, or the expression of alternative β-lactam-resistant PBPs. σP is an extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factor that controls β-lactam resistance in the species Bacillus thuringiensis, Bacillus cereus, and Bacillus anthracis. σP is normally held inactive by the anti-σ factor RsiP. σP is activated by β-lactams that trigger the proteolytic destruction of RsiP. Here, we identify the penicillin-binding protein PbpP and demonstrate its essential role in the activation of σP. Our data show that PbpP is required for σP activation and RsiP degradation. Our data suggest that PbpP acts as a β-lactam sensor since the binding of a subset of β-lactams to PbpP is required for σP activation. We find that PbpP likely directly or indirectly controls site 1 cleavage of RsiP, which results in the degradation of RsiP and, thus, σP activation. σP activation results in increased expression of β-lactamases and, thus, increased β-lactam resistance. This work is the first report of a PBP acting as a sensor for β-lactams and controlling the activation of an ECF σ factor.

  • Kelsie M. Nauta, Theresa D. Ho, Craig D. Ellermeier