Journal of bacteriology

Bacillus anthracis lcp Genes Support Vegetative Growth, Envelope Assembly, and Spore Formation.

PMID 26391207


Bacillus anthracis, a spore-forming pathogen, replicates as chains of vegetative cells by regulating the separation of septal peptidoglycan. Surface (S)-layer proteins and B. anthracis S-layer-associated proteins (BSLs) function as chain length determinants and are assembled in the envelope by binding to the secondary cell wall polysaccharide (SCWP). B. anthracis expresses six different genes encoding LytR-CpsA-Psr (LCP) enzymes (lcpB1 to -4, lcpC, and lcpD), which when expressed in Staphylococcus aureus promote attachment of wall teichoic acid to peptidoglycan. Mutations in B. anthracis lcpB3 and lcpD cause aberrations in cell size and chain length that can be explained as discrete defects in SCWP assembly; however, the function of the other lcp genes is not known. By deleting combinations of lcp genes from the B. anthracis genome, we generated variants with single lcp genes. B. anthracis expressing lcpB3 alone displayed physiological cell size, vegetative growth, spore formation, and S-layer assembly. Strains expressing lcpB1 or lcpB4 displayed defects in cell size and shape, S-layer assembly, and spore formation yet sustained vegetative growth. In contrast, the lcpB2 strain was unable to grow unless the gene was expressed from a multicopy plasmid (lcpB2(++)), and variants expressing lcpC or lcpD displayed severe defects in growth and cell shape. The lcpB2(++), lcpC, or lcpD strains supported neither S-layer assembly nor spore formation. We propose a model whereby LCP enzymes fulfill partially overlapping functions in transferring SCWP molecules to discrete sites within the bacterial envelope. Products of genes essential for bacterial envelope assembly represent targets for antibiotic development. The LytR-CpsA-Psr (LCP) enzymes tether bactoprenol-linked intermediates of secondary cell wall polymers to the C6 hydroxyl of N-acetylmuramic acid in peptidoglycan; however, the role of LCPs as a target for antibiotic therapy is not defined. We show here that LCP enzymes are essential for the cell cycle, vegetative growth, and spore formation of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax disease. Furthermore, we assign functions for each of the six LCP enzymes, including cell size and shape, vegetative growth and sporulation, and S-layer and S-layer-associated protein assembly.