A protein phosphorylation module patterns the Bacillus subtilis spore outer coat

Carolina Freitas, Jarnaja Plannic, Rachele Isticato, Assunta Pelosi, Rita Zilhão, Mónica Serrano, Loredana Baccigalupi, Ezio Ricca, Alexander K.W. Elsholz, Richard Losick, Adriano O. Henriques

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Assembly of the Bacillus subtilis spore coat involves over 80 proteins which self-organize into a basal layer, a lamellar inner coat, a striated electrodense outer coat and a more external crust. CotB is an abundant component of the outer coat. The C-terminal moiety of CotB, SKRB, formed by serine-rich repeats, is polyphosphorylated by the Ser/Thr kinase CotH. We show that another coat protein, CotG, with a central serine-repeat region, SKRG, interacts with the C-terminal moiety of CotB and promotes its phosphorylation by CotH in vivo and in a heterologous system. CotG itself is phosphorylated by CotH but phosphorylation is enhanced in the absence of CotB. Spores of a strain producing an inactive form of CotH, like those formed by a cotG deletion mutant, lack the pattern of electrondense outer coat striations, but retain the crust. In contrast, deletion of the SKRB region, has no major impact on outer coat structure. Thus, phosphorylation of CotG by CotH is a key factor establishing the structure of the outer coat. The presence of the cotB/cotH/cotG cluster in several species closely related to B. subtilis hints at the importance of this protein phosphorylation module in the morphogenesis of the spore surface layers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)934-951
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • CotB
  • CotG
  • CotH
  • protein kinase
  • protein phosphorylation
  • spore coat


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