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Höfler, Carolin; Heckmann, Judith; Fritsch, Anne; Popp, Philipp; Gebhard, Susanne; Fritz, Georg and Maschert, Thorsten (2016): Cannibalism stress response in Bacillus subtilis. In: Microbiology-Sgm, Vol. 162: pp. 164-176

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When faced with carbon source limitation, the Gram-positive soil organism Bacillus subtilis initiates a survival strategy called sporulation, which leads to the formation of highly resistant endospores that allow B. subtilis to survive even long periods of starvation. In order to avoid commitment to this energy-demanding and irreversible process, B. subtilis employs another strategy called 'cannibalism' to delay sporulation as long as possible. Cannibalism involves the production and secretion of two cannibalism toxins, sporulation delaying protein (SDP) and sporulation killing factor (SKF), which are able to lyse sensitive siblings. The lysed cells are thought to then provide nutrients for the cannibals to slow down or even prevent them from entering sporulation. In this study, we uncovered the role of the cell envelope stress response (CESR), especially the Bce-like antimicrobial peptide detoxification modules, in the cannibalism stress response during the stationary phase. SDP and SKF specifically induce Bce-like systems and some extracytoplasmic function a factors in stationary-phase cultures, but only the latter provide some degree of protection. A full Bce response is only triggered by mature toxins, and not by toxin precursors. Our study provides insights into the close relationship between stationary -phase survival and the CESR of B. subtilis.

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