Noise in a phosphorelay drives stochastic entry into sporulation in Bacillus subtilis

Entry into sporulation in Bacillus subtilis is governed by a phosphorelay in which phosphoryl groups from a histidine kinase are successively transferred via relay proteins to the response regulator Spo0A. Spo0A~P, in turn, sets in motion events that lead to asymmetric division and activation of the cell-specific transcription factor F, a hallmark for entry into sporulation. Here, we have used a microfluidics-based platform to investigate the activation of Spo0A and F in individual cells held under constant, sporulation-inducing conditions. The principal conclusions were that: (i) activation of F occurs with an approximately constant probability after adaptation to conditions of nutrient limitation; (ii) activation of F is tightly correlated with, and preceded by, Spo0A~P reaching a high threshold level; (iii) activation of Spo0A takes place abruptly just prior to asymmetric division; and (iv) the primary source of noise in the activation of Spo0A is the phosphorelay. We propose that cells exhibit a constant probability of attaining a high threshold level of Spo0A~P due to fluctuations in the flux of phosphoryl groups through the phosphorelay.
Source: EMBO Journal - Category: Molecular Biology Authors: Tags: Microbiology, Virology & Host Pathogen Interaction, Signal Transduction Articles Source Type: research

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