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PLoS Genet. 2019 Jun 25;15(6):e1008179. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008179. eCollection 2019 Jun.

Suppressor mutations in ribosomal proteins and FliY restore Bacillus subtilis swarming motility in the absence of EF-P.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, United States of America.


Translation elongation factor P (EF-P) alleviates ribosome pausing at a subset of motifs encoding consecutive proline residues, and is required for growth in many organisms. Here we show that Bacillus subtilis EF-P also alleviates ribosome pausing at sequences encoding tandem prolines and ribosomes paused within several essential genes without a corresponding growth defect in an efp mutant. The B. subtilis efp mutant is instead impaired for flagellar biosynthesis which results in the abrogation of a form of motility called swarming. We isolate swarming suppressors of efp and identify mutations in 8 genes that suppressed the efp mutant swarming defect, many of which encode conserved ribosomal proteins or ribosome-associated factors. One mutation abolished a translational pause site within the flagellar C-ring component FliY to increase flagellar number and restore swarming motility in the absence of EF-P. Our data support a model wherein EF-P-alleviation of ribosome pausing may be particularly important for macromolecular assemblies like the flagellum that require precise protein stoichiometries.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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