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Molecular characterization and protein analysis of the cap region, which is essential for encapsulation in Bacillus anthracis.

  • S Makino
  • I Uchida
  • N Terakado
  • C Sasakawa
  • M Yoshikawa
Publication Date
Feb 01, 1989
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine


By using genetic complementation tests with various in vitro-constructed mutants with mutations in the cap region (which is essential for encapsulation in Bacillus anthracis), we identified three cistrons, capB, capC, and capA, in this order of arrangement. Minicell analysis revealed that these cistrons produce proteins of 44, 16, and 46 kilodaltons, respectively. The complete nucleotide sequence of 3,244 base pairs covering the whole cap region was determined and revealed the existence of the three open reading frames of capB (397 amino acid residues; molecular weight, 44,872), capC (149 amino acid residues; molecular weight, 16,522), and capA (411 amino acid residues; molecular weight, 46,420) arranged in the order predicted by complementation tests. These three cistrons were all transcribed in the same direction from promoters unique to each cistron. Judging from the predicted amino acid sequence of the three proteins and from their localization and their sensitivity to various physicochemical treatments, they appeared to be membrane-associated enzymes mediating the polymerization of D-glutamic acid via the membrane. Capsular peptides immunologically identical to that of B. anthracis were found in B. subtilis, B. megaterium, and B. licheniformis, but no sequence homologous to the cap region was found in any of these bacilli other than B. anthracis. Using strains of B. anthracis with or without insertional inactivation of the cap region, we found that the capsule of B. anthracis conferred strong resistance to phagocytosis upon the bacterial host.

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