Annual review of microbiology 71() 79-98 doi 10.1146/annurev-micro-090816-093512
Bacillus anthracis, the anthrax agent, is a member of the Bacillus cereus sensu lato group, which includes invasive pathogens of mammals or insects as well as nonpathogenic environmental strains. The genes for anthrax pathogenesis are located on two large virulence plasmids. Similar virulence plasmids have been acquired by other B. cereus strains and enable the pathogenesis of anthrax-like diseases. Among the virulence factors of B. anthracis is the S-layer-associated protein BslA, which endows bacilli with invasive attributes for mammalian hosts. BslA surface display and function are dependent on the bacterial S-layer, whose constituents assemble by binding to the secondary cell wall polysaccharide (SCWP) via S-layer homology (SLH) domains. B. anthracis and other pathogenic B. cereus isolates harbor genes for the secretion of S-layer proteins, for S-layer assembly, and for synthesis of the SCWP. We review here recent insights into the assembly and function of the S-layer and the SCWP.