Many bacteria inhibit motility concomitant with the synthesis of an extracellular polysaccharide matrix and the formation of biofilm aggregates. In Bacillus subtilis biofilms, motility is inhibited by EpsE, which acts as a clutch on the flagella rotor to inhibit motility, and which is encoded within the 15 gene eps operon required for EPS production. EpsE shows sequence similarity to the glycosyltransferase family of enzymes, and we demonstrate that the conserved active site motif is required for EPS biosynthesis. We also screen for residues specifically required for either clutch or enzymatic activity and demonstrate that the two functions are genetically separable. Finally, we show that, whereas EPS synthesis activity is dominant for biofilm formation, both functions of EpsE synergize to stabilize cell aggregates and relieve selective pressure to abolish motility by genetic mutation. Thus, the transition from motility to biofilm formation may be governed by a single bifunctional enzyme. © 2010 Guttenplan et al.
Guttenplan, S. B., Blair, K. M., & Kearns, D. B. (2010). The EpsE flagellar clutch is bifunctional and synergizes with EPS biosynthesis to promote bacillus subtilisbiofilm formation. PLoS Genetics, 6(12), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1001243