Editor: Bernardo González
Cannibalism: a social behavior in sporulating Bacillus subtilis
Article first published online: 19 OCT 2010
© 2010 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved
FEMS Microbiology Reviews
Volume 35, Issue 3, pages 415–424, May 2011
How to Cite
González-Pastor, J. E. (2011), Cannibalism: a social behavior in sporulating Bacillus subtilis. FEMS Microbiology Reviews, 35: 415–424. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2010.00253.x
- Issue published online: 4 APR 2011
- Article first published online: 19 OCT 2010
- Accepted manuscript online: 24 SEP 2010 11:35AM EST
- Received 8 March 2010; revised 15 August 2010; accepted 10 September 2010., Final version published online 19 October 2010.
A social behavior named cannibalism has been described during the early stages of sporulation of the Gram-positive Bacillus subtilis. This phenomenon is based on the heterogeneity of sporulating populations, constituted by at least two cell types: (1) sporulating cells, in which the master regulator of sporulation Spo0A is active, and (2) nonsporulating cells, in which Spo0A is inactive. Sporulating cells produce two toxins that act cooperatively to kill the nonsporulating sister cells. The nutrients released by the dead cells into the starved medium are used for growth by the sporulating cells that are not yet fully committed to sporulate, and as a result, sporulation is arrested. This review outlines the molecular mechanisms of the killing and immunity to the toxins, the regulation of their production and other examples of killing of siblings in microorganisms. The biological significance of this behavior is discussed.