We have isolated a DNA fragment from Bacillus subtilis 168 which, when present in a high-copy plasmid, inhibited production of extracellular alkaline and neutral proteases. The gene responsible for this activity was referred to as iep. The open reading frame of iep was found to be incomplete in the cloned DNA fragment. When the intact iep gene was reconstructed after the missing part of the iep gene had been cloned, it showed an enhancing effect on the production of the extracellular proteases. The open reading frame encodes a polypeptide of 229 amino acids with a molecular weight of ca. 25,866. Deletion of two amino acids from the N-terminal half of the putative iep protein resulted in dual effects, i.e., a decrease in the inhibitory activity shown by the incomplete iep gene and a slight increase in the enhancing activity shown by the complete iep gene. These results show that the iep gene product is a bifunctional protein, containing inhibitory and enhancing activities for the exoprotease production in the N-terminal and C-terminal regions, respectively. It was found by genetic and functional analyses that iep lies very close to sacU
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