Phenotypic plasticity: The role of a phosphatase family Rap in the genetic regulation of Bacilli

Ramses Gallegos-Monterrosa, Ákos T. Kovács*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In the last two decades, an increasing number of bacterial species have been recognized that are able to generate a phenotypically diverse population that shares an identical genotype. This ability is dependent on a complex genetic regulatory network that includes cellular and environmental signals, as well as stochastic elements. Among Bacilli, a broadly distributed family of Rap (Response-regulator aspartyl phosphate) phosphatases is known to modulate the function of the main phenotypic heterogeneity regulators by controlling their phosphorylation. Even more, their related extracellular Phr (Phosphatase regulator) peptides function as signals, creating a cell–cell communication network that regulates the phenotypic development of the entire population. In this review, we examine the role that the Rap phosphatases and their Phr peptides play in the regulation of Bacillus subtilis phenotypic differentiation, and in other members of the Bacillus genus. We also highlight the contribution of these regulatory elements to the fitness of bacterial cells and mobile genetic elements, for example, prophages and conjugative vectors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)20-31
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Bacillus
  • Biofilm
  • Differentiation
  • Phenotypic heterogeneity
  • Rap phosphatase


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