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Beyond the spore, the exosporium sugar anthrose impacts vegetative Bacillus anthracis gene regulation in cis and trans

Norris, MH;Bluhm, AP;Metrailer, MC;Jiranantasak, T;Kirpich, A;Hadfield, T;Ponciano, JM;Blackburn, JK;

The Bacillus anthracis exosporium nap is the outermost portion of spore that interacts with the environment and host systems. Changes to this layer have the potential to impact wide-ranging physiological and immunological processes. The unique sugar, anthrose, normally coats the exosporium nap at its most distal points. We previously identified additional mechanisms rendering B. anthracis anthrose negative. In this work, several new ant – B. anthracis strains are identified and the impact of anthrose negativity on spore physiology is investigated. We demonstrate that live-attenuated Sterne vaccines as well as culture filtrate anthrax vaccines generate antibodies targeting non-protein components of the spore. The role of anthrose as a vegetative B. anthracis Sterne signaling molecule is implicated by luminescent expression strain assays, RNA-seq experiments, and toxin secretion analysis by western blot. Pure anthrose and the sporulation-inducing nucleoside analogue decoyinine had similar effects on toxin expression. Co-culture experiments demonstrated gene expression changes in B. anthracis depend on intracellular anthrose status (cis) in addition to anthrose status of extracellular interactions (trans). These findings provide a mechanism for how a unique spore-specific sugar residue affects physiology, expression and genetics of vegetative B. anthracis with impacts on the ecology, pathogenesis, and vaccinology of anthrax.