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Bacillus subtilis: from soil bacterium to super-secreting cell factory

Jan Maarten van Dijl1* and Michael Hecker2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Hanzeplein 1, P.O. box 30001, Groningen, 9700 RB, the Netherlands

2 Institut für Mikrobiologie, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald, Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Str. 15, Greifswald, D-17489, Germany

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Microbial Cell Factories 2013, 12:3  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-12-3

Published: 14 January 2013


The biotechnology industry has become a key element in modern societies. Within this industry, the production of recombinant enzymes and biopharmaceutical proteins is of major importance. The global markets for such recombinant proteins are growing rapidly and, accordingly, there is a continuous need for new production platforms that can deliver protein products in greater yields, with higher quality and at lower costs. This calls for the development of next-generation super-secreting cell factories. One of the microbial cell factories that can meet these challenges is the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis, an inhabitant of the upper layers of the soil that has the capacity to secrete proteins in the gram per litre range. The engineering of B. subtilis into a next-generation super-secreting cell factory requires combined Systems and Synthetic Biology approaches. In this way, the bacterial protein secretion machinery can be optimized from the single molecule to the network level while, at the same time, taking into account the balanced use of cellular resources. Although highly ambitious, this is an achievable objective due to recent advances in functional genomics and Systems- and Synthetic Biological analyses of B. subtilis cells.

Bacillus subtilis; Cell factory; Protein secretion; Proteomics; Systems biology; Synthetic biology