Post-translational control of Bacillus subtilis biofilm formation

  • Taryn Blair Kiley

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    A biofilm is a complex community of cells enveloped in a self-produced polymeric matrix. Entry into a biofilm is exquisitely controlled at the level of transcription and in Bacillus subtilis it requires the concerted efforts of several major transcription factors including the repressor SinR and activator DegU. I initially identified that these transcriptional regulators control biofilm formation via parallel pathways. Through investigating the regulation of biofilm formation by SinR and DegU, I discovered that biofilm formation is also regulated at the post-translational level. This was achieved by identifying three key proteins which are needed for biofilm formation. These proteins are PtkA, a bacterial tyrosine kinase; TkmA, the cognate modulator of PtkA; and PtpZ, a bacterial tyrosine phosphatase. By introducing amino acid point mutations within the catalytic domains of PtkA and PtpZ it was identified that the kinase phosphatase activities, respectively, are essential function.In addition, PtkA contains a conserved C-tyrosine cluster that is the site autophosphorylation. Investigation of the role of the C-terminal tyrosine cluster tentatively suggests that this domain acts to block access to the active site of PtkA, thus affecting the ability of PtkA to phosphorylate its targets. Deletion of the gene coding for TkmA demonstrated that this modulator was also required for biofilm formation. It was also demonstrated that TkmA may interact with other protein partners, at least in the absence of PtkA, raising the question of how signal specificity is maintained. Finally, a systematic mutagenesis approach was used with the aim of identifying the target(s) of PtkA and PtpZ during biofilm formation but,despite extensive efforts, it remained elusive. The findings presented in this thesis highlight the complexity of biofilm formation by B. subtilis by revealing an additional level of regulation in the form of protein tyrosine phosphorylation.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
    SupervisorNicola Stanley-Wall (Supervisor)


    • Biofilms
    • Bacterial tyrosine kinase
    • Post-translational regulation

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