Deletion of Rap-phosphatases for quorum sensing control in Bacillus and its effect on surfactin production

Chantal Treinen, Lennart Biermann, Maliheh Vahidinasab, Kambiz Morabbi Heravi, Lars Lilge, Rudolf Hausmann, Marius Henkel

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The complex regulatory network in Bacillus, known as quorum sensing, offers many opportunities to modify bacterial gene expression and hence to control bioprocesses. One target regulated by this mechanism is the activity of the PsrfA promoter, which is engaged in the formation of lipopeptide surfactin. It was hypothesised that deletion of rapC, rapF and rapH, encoding for prominent Rap-phosphatases known to affect PsrfA activity, would enhance surfactin production. Therefore, these genes were deleted in a sfp + derivative of B. subtilis 168 with subsequent evaluation of quantitative data. Up to the maximum product formation of the reference strain B. subtilis KM1016 after 16 h of cultivation, the titers of the rap deletion mutants did not exceed the reference. However, an increase in both product yield per biomass Y P/X and specific surfactin productivity q surfactin was observed, without any considerable effect on the ComX activity. By extending the cultivation time, a 2.7-fold increase in surfactin titer was observed after 24 h for strain CT10 (ΔrapC) and a 2.5-fold increase for CT11 (ΔrapF) compared to the reference strain KM1016. In addition, Y P/X was again increased for strains CT10 and CT11, with values of 1.33 g/g and 1.13 g/g, respectively. Interestingly, the effect on surfactin titer in strain CT12 (ΔrapH) was not as distinct, although it achieved the highest promoter activity (PsrfA-lacZ). The data presented support the possibility of involving the quorum sensing system of Bacillus in bioprocess control as shown here on the example of lipopeptide production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number51
JournalAMB Express
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Molecular process control
  • Quorum sensing
  • Rap-phosphatases
  • Surfactin lipopeptide


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