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Summary

The WalRK (YycFG) two-component system co-ordinates cell wall metabolism with growth by regulating expression of autolysins and proteins that modulate autolysin activity. Here we extend its role in cell wall metabolism by showing that WalR binds to 22 chromosomal loci in vivo. Among the newly identified genes of the WalRK bindome are those that encode the wall-associated protein WapA, the penicillin binding proteins PbpH and Pbp5, the minor teichoic acid synthetic enzymes GgaAB and the regulators σI RsgI. The putative WalR binding sequence at many newly identified binding loci deviates from the previously defined consensus. Moreover, expression of many newly identified operons is controlled by multiple regulators. An unusual feature is that WalR binds to an extended DNA region spanning multiple open reading frames at some loci. WalRK directly activates expression of the sigIrsgI operon from a newly identified σA promoter and represses expression from the previously identified σI promoter. We propose that this regulatory link between WalRK and σI RsgI expression ensures that the endopeptidase requirement (CwlO or LytE) for cell viability is fulfilled during growth and under stress conditions. Thus the WalRK and σI RsgI regulatory systems cooperate to control cell wall metabolism in growing and stressed cells.