The two-component regulatory system BacRS is associated with bacitracin ‘self-resistance’ of Bacillus licheniformis ATCC 10716


M. A. Marahiel, Philipps Universität Marburg, FB Chemie/Biochemie, Hans-Meerwein-Strasse, D-35032 Marburg, Germany. Fax: + 49 64212822191, Tel.: + 49 6421 2825722, E-mail:


Bacitracin is a peptide antibiotic produced by several Bacillus licheniformis strains that is most active against other Gram-positive microorganisms, but not against the producer strain itself. Recently, heterologous expression of the bacitracin resistance mediating BcrABC transporter in Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli was described. In this study we could determine that the transporter encoding bcrABC genes are localized about 3 kb downstream of the 44-kb bacitracin biosynthetic operon bacABC. Between the bac operon and the bcrABC genes two orfs, designated bacR and bacS, were identified. They code for proteins with high homology to regulator and sensor proteins of two-component systems. A disruption mutant of the bacRS genes was constructed. While the mutant displayed no effects on the bacitracin production it exhibited highly increased bacitracin sensitivity compared to the wild-type strain. Western blot analysis of the expression of BcrA, the ATP-binding cassette of the transporter, showed in the wild-type a moderate BcrA induction in late stationary cells that accumulate bacitracin, whereas in the bacRS mutant cells the BcrA expression was constitutive. A comparison of bacitracin stressed and nonstressed wild-type cells in Western blot analysis revealed increasing amounts of BcrA and a decrease in BacR in the stressed cells. From these findings we infer that BacR acts as a negative regulator for controlling the expression of the bcrABC transporter genes.