The capacity to form endospores is unique to certain members of the low-G+C group of Gram-positive bacteria (Firmicutes) and requires signature sporulation genes that are highly conserved across members of distantly related genera, such as Clostridium and Bacillus. Using gene conservation among endospore-forming bacteria, we identified eight previously uncharacterized genes that are enriched among endospore-forming species. The expression of five of these genes was dependent on sporulation-specific transcription factors. Mutants of none of the genes exhibited a conspicuous defect in sporulation, but mutants of two, ylxY and ylyA, were outcompeted by a wild-type strain under sporulation-inducing conditions, but not during growth. In contrast, a ylmC mutant displayed a slight competitive advantage over the wild type specific to sporulation-inducing conditions. The phenotype of a ylyA mutant was ascribed to a defect in spore germination efficiency. This work demonstrates the power of combining phylogenetic profiling with reverse genetics and gene-regulatory studies to identify unrecognized genes that contribute to a conserved developmental process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology