A membrane-bound transcription factor is proteolytically regulated by the aaa+ protease ftsh in staphylococcus aureus

Won Sik Yeo, Chiamara Anokwute, Philip Marcadis, Marcus Levitan, Mahmoud Ahmed, Yeun Bae, Kyeongkyu Kim, Tatiana Kostrominova, Qian Liu, Taeok Bae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In bacteria, chromosomal DNA resides in the cytoplasm, and most transcription factors are also found in the cytoplasm. However, some transcription factors, called membrane-bound transcription factors (MTFs), reside in the cytoplasmic membrane. Here, we report the identification of a new MTF in the Gram-positive pathogen Staphylococcus aureus and its regulation by the protease FtsH. The MTF, named MbtS (membrane-bound transcription factor of Staphylococcus aureus), is encoded by SAUSA300_2640 and predicted to have an N-terminal DNA binding domain and three transmembrane helices. The MbtS protein was degraded by membrane vesicles containing FtsH or by the purified FtsH. MbtS bound to an inverted repeat sequence in its promoter region, and the DNA binding was essential for its transcription. Transcriptional comparison between the ftsH deletion mutant and the ftsH mbtS double mutant showed that MbtS could alter the transcription of over 200 genes. Although the MbtS protein was not detected in wild-type (WT) cells grown in a liquid medium, the protein was detected in some isolated colonies on an agar plate. In a murine model of a skin infection, the disruption of mbtS increased the lesion size. Based on these results, we concluded that MbtS is a new S. aureus MTF whose activity is proteolytically regulated by FtsH. IMPORTANCE Staphylococcus aureus is an important pathogenic bacterium causing various diseases in humans. In the bacterium, transcription is typically regulated by the transcription factors located in the cytoplasm. In this study, we report an atypical transcription factor identified in S. aureus. Unlike most other transcription factors, the newly identified transcription factor is located in the cytoplasmic membrane, and its activity is proteolytically controlled by the membrane-bound AAA+ protease FtsH. The newly identified MTF, named MbtS, has the potential to regulate the transcription of over 200 genes. This study provides a molecular mechanism by which a protease affects bacterial transcription and illustrates the diversity of the bacterial transcriptional regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00019-20
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Membrane localization
  • Proteases
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

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