The two-component system DegSU of Bacillus subtilis controls more than one hundred genes involved in several different cellular behaviours. Over the last four decades, the degU32Hy allele, supposedly encoding a constitutively active mutant of the response regulator DegU, was exploited to define the impact of this system on cell physiology. Those studies concluded that phosphorylated DegU (DegU∼P) induced degradative enzyme expression while repressing flagellar motility and competence. Recent experiments, however, demonstrated that flagella expression is enhanced by DegU∼P if SwrA, a protein only encoded by wild strains, is present. Yet, to promote motility, SwrA must interact with DegU∼P produced by a wild-type degU allele, as it cannot correctly cooperate with the mutant DegU32Hy protein. In this work, the impact of DegSU was reanalysed in the presence or absence of SwrA employing a DegS kinase mutant, degS200Hy, to force the activation of the TCS. Our results demonstrate that the role of SwrA in B. subtilis physiology is wider than expected and affects several other DegSU targets. SwrA reduces subtilisin, cellulases and xylanases production while, besides motility, it also positively modulates competence for DNA uptake, remarkably relieving the inhibition caused by DegU∼P alone and restoring transformability in degS200Hy strains.
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