In Bacillus subtilis, DNA repair and recombination are intimately associated with competence, the physiological state in which the bacterium can bind, take up and recombine exogenous DNA. Previously, we have shown that the homologous DNA transformation rate (ratio of transformants to total cells) increases with increasing UV dosage if cells are transformed after exposure to UV radiation (UV-DNA), whereas the transformation rate decreases if cells are transformed before exposure to UV (DNA-UV). In this report, by using different DNA repair-deficient mutants, we show that the greater increase in transformation rate in UV-DNA experiments than in DNA-UV experiments does not depend upon excision repair or inducible SOS-like repair, although certain quantitative aspects of the response do depend upon these repair systems. We also show that there is no increase in the transformation rate in a UV-DNA experiment when repair and recombination proficient cells are transformed with nonhomologous plasmid DNA, although the results in a DNA-UV experiment are essentially unchanged by using plasmid DNA. We have used din operon fusions as a sensitive means of assaying for the expression of genes under the control of the SOS-like regulon in both competent and noncompetent cell subpopulations as a consequence of competence development and our subsequent experimental treatments. Results indicate that the SOS-like system is induced in both competent and noncompetent subpopulations in our treatments and so should not be a major factor in the differential response in transformation rate observed in UV-DNA and DNA-UV treatments. These results provide further support to the hypothesis that the evolutionary function of competence is to bring DNA into the cell for use as template in the repair of DNA damage.
- Copyright © 1989 by the Genetics Society of America