Temporal regulation of the transformasome and competence development in Streptococcus suis

Edoardo Zaccaria, Michiel Wels, Peter van Baarlen, Jerry M. Wells*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In S. suis the ComX-inducing peptide (XIP) pheromone regulates ComR-dependent transcriptional activation of comX (or sigX) the regulator of the late competence regulon. The aims of this study were to identify the ComR-regulated genes and in S. suis using genome-wide transcriptomics and identify their function based on orthology and the construction of specific knockout mutants. The ComX regulon we identified, includes all homologs of the "transformasome" a type 4-like pilus DNA binding and transport apparatus identified in Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus mutans, and Streptococcus thermophilus. A conserved CIN-box (YTACGAAYW), predicted to be bound by ComX, was found in the promoters of operons encoding genes involved in expression of the transformasome. Mutants lacking the major pilin gene comYC were not transformable demonstrating that the DNA uptake pilus is indeed required for competence development in S. suis. Competence was a transient state with the comX regulon shut down after ~15 min even when transcription of comX had not returned to basal levels, indicating other mechanisms control the exit from competence. The ComX regulon also included genes involved in DNA repair including cinA which we showed to be required for high efficiency transformation. In contrast to S. pneumoniae and S. mutans the ComX regulon of S. suis did not include endA which converts the transforming DNA into ssDNA, or ssbA, which protects the transforming ssDNA from degradation. EndA appeared to be essential in S. suis so we could not generate mutants and confirm its role in DNA transformation. Finally, we identified a putative homolog of fratricin, and a putative bacteriocin gene cluster, that were also part of the CIN-box regulon and thus may play a role in DNA release from non-competent cells, enabling gene transfer between S. suis pherotypes or S. suis and other species. S. suis mutants of oppA, the binding subunit of the general oligopeptide transporter were not transformable, suggesting that it is required for the import of XIP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1922
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Bacteriocins
  • Competence
  • DNA transformation
  • Fratricin
  • Pillus
  • Sigma factor X
  • Streptococcus suis


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