Author(s): Kempf B, Bremer E
Exogenously provided glycine betaine can efficiently protect Bacillus subtilis from the detrimental effects of high osmolarity environments. Through functional complementation of an Escherichia coli mutant deficient in glycine betaine uptake with a gene library from B. subtilis, we have identified a multicomponent glycine betaine transport system, OpuA. Uptake of radiolabeled glycine betaine in B. subtilis was found to be osmotically stimulated and was strongly decreased in a mutant strain lacking the OpuA transport system. DNA sequence analysis revealed that the components of the OpuA system are encoded by anoperon (opuA) comprising three structural genes: opuAA, opuAB, and opuAC. The products of these genes exhibit features characteristic for binding protein-dependent transport systems and in particular show homology to the glycine betaine uptake system ProU from E. coli. Expression of the opuA operon is under osmotic control. The transcriptional initiation sites of opuA were mapped by high resolution primer extension analysis, and two opuA mRNAs were detected that differed by 38 base pairs at their 5' ends. Synthesis of the shorter transcript was strongly increased in cells grown at high osmolarity, whereas the amount of the longer transcript did not vary in response to medium osmolarity. Physical and genetic mapping experiments allowed the positioning the opuA operon at 25 degrees on the genetic map of B. subtilis.