Impaired competence in flagellar mutants of Bacillus subtilis is connected to the regulatory network governed by DegU. Running title: Hindered competence by lack of motility

Theresa Hölscher, Tina Schiklang, Anna Dragos, Anne-Kathrin Dietel, Christian Kost, Ákos T. Kovács*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The competent state is a developmentally distinct phase, in which bacteria are able to take up and integrate exogenous DNA into their genome. Bacillus subtilis is one of the naturally competent bacterial species and the domesticated laboratory strain 168 is easily transformable. In this study, we report a reduced transformation frequency of B. subtilis mutants lacking functional and structural flagellar components. This includes hag, the gene encoding the flagellin protein forming the filament of the flagellum. We confirm that the observed decrease of the transformation frequency is due to reduced expression of competence genes, particularly of the main competence regulator comK. The impaired competence is due to an increase in the phosphorylated form of the response regulator DegU, which is involved in regulation of both flagellar motility and competence. Altogether, our study identified a close link between motility and natural competence in B. subtilis suggesting that hindrance in motility has great impact on differentiation of this bacterium not restricted only to the transition towards sessile growth stage.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology Reports
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)23-32
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

The submitted manuscript ( a preprint version) has been published on with a separate DOI, see:
This preprint version is made available under a CC-BY 4.0 International license and has not been peer reviewed.


  • Flagella
  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Competence
  • Phosphorylation
  • Viscosity

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