Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 447–455 | Cite as

Stress responses ofBacillus subtilis to high osmolarity environments: Uptake and synthesis of osmoprotectants

  • Bettina Kempf
  • Erhard Bremer


A decrease in the water content of the soil imposes a considerable stress on the voil-living bacteriumBacillus subtilis: water exits from the cells, resulting in decreased turgor and cessation of growth. Under these adverse circumstances,B. subtilis actively modulates the osmolarity of its cytoplasm to maintain turgor within acceptable boundaries. A rapid uptake of potassium ions via turgor-responsive transport systems is the primary stress response to a sudden increase in the external osmolarity. This is followed by the massive accumulation of the so-called compatible solutes, i.e., organic osmolytes that are highly congruous with cellular functions and hence can be accumulated by bacterial cells up to molar concentrations. Initially, the compatible solute proline is accumulated viade novo synthesis, butB. subtilis can also acquire proline from the environment by an osmoregulated transport system, OpuE. The preferred compatible solute ofB. subtilis is the potent osmoprotectant glycine betaine. This trimethylammonium compound can be taken up by the cell through three high-affinity transport systems: the multicomponent ABC transporters OpuA and OpuC, and the single-component transporter OpuD. The OpuC systems also mediates the accumulation of a variety of naturally occurring betaines, each of which can confer a considerable degree of osmotic tolerance. In addition to the uptake of glycine betaine from the environment,B. subtilis can also synthesize this osmoprotectant but it requires exogenously provided choline as its precursor. Two evolutionarily closely related ABC transport systems, OpuB and OpuC, mediate the uptake of choline which is then converted by the GbsA and GbsB enzymes in a two-step oxidation process into glycine betaine. Our data show that the intracellular accumulation of osmoprotectants is of central importance for the cellular defence ofB. subtilis against high osmolarity stress.


Stress responses osmoprotection compatible solutes osmoregulation transporters 


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, Laboratory for MicrobiologyPhilipps University MarbrgMarburgGermany

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