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1.  Whole-Genome Transcriptional Analysis of Heavy Metal Stresses in Caulobacter crescentus†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(24):8437-8449.
The bacterium Caulobacter crescentus and related stalk bacterial species are known for their distinctive ability to live in low-nutrient environments, a characteristic of most heavy metal-contaminated sites. Caulobacter crescentus is a model organism for studying cell cycle regulation with well-developed genetics. We have identified the pathways responding to heavy-metal toxicity in C. crescentus to provide insights for the possible application of Caulobacter to environmental restoration. We exposed C. crescentus cells to four heavy metals (chromium, cadmium, selenium, and uranium) and analyzed genome-wide transcriptional activities postexposure using an Affymetrix GeneChip microarray. C. crescentus showed surprisingly high tolerance to uranium, a possible mechanism for which may be the formation of extracellular calcium-uranium-phosphate precipitates. The principal response to these metals was protection against oxidative stress (up-regulation of manganese-dependent superoxide dismutase sodA). Glutathione S-transferase, thioredoxin, glutaredoxins, and DNA repair enzymes responded most strongly to cadmium and chromate. The cadmium and chromium stress response also focused on reducing the intracellular metal concentration, with multiple efflux pumps employed to remove cadmium, while a sulfate transporter was down-regulated to reduce nonspecific uptake of chromium. Membrane proteins were also up-regulated in response to most of the metals tested. A two-component signal transduction system involved in the uranium response was identified. Several differentially regulated transcripts from regions previously not known to encode proteins were identified, demonstrating the advantage of evaluating the transcriptome by using whole-genome microarrays.
PMCID: PMC1317002  PMID: 16321948
2.  Reactive Oxygen Species-Inducible ECF σ Factors of Bradyrhizobium japonicum 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43421.
Extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factors control the transcription of genes involved in different cellular functions, such as stress responses, metal homeostasis, virulence-related traits, and cell envelope structure. The genome of Bradyrhizobium japonicum, the nitrogen-fixing soybean endosymbiont, encodes 17 putative ECF σ factors belonging to nine different ECF σ factor families. The genes for two of them, ecfQ (bll1028) and ecfF (blr3038), are highly induced in response to the reactive oxygen species hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and singlet oxygen (1O2). The ecfF gene is followed by the predicted anti-σ factor gene osrA (blr3039). Mutants lacking EcfQ, EcfF plus OsrA, OsrA alone, or both σ factors plus OsrA were phenotypically characterized. While the symbiotic properties of all mutants were indistinguishable from the wild type, they showed increased sensitivity to singlet oxygen under free-living conditions. Possible target genes of EcfQ and EcfF were determined by microarray analyses, and candidate genes were compared with the H2O2-responsive regulon. These experiments disclosed that the two σ factors control rather small and, for the most part, distinct sets of genes, with about half of the genes representing 13% of the members of H2O2-responsive regulon. To get more insight into transcriptional regulation of both σ factors, the 5′ ends of ecfQ and ecfF mRNA were determined. The presence of conserved sequence motifs in the promoter region of ecfQ and genes encoding EcfQ-like σ factors in related α-proteobacteria suggests regulation via a yet unknown transcription factor. By contrast, we have evidence that ecfF is autoregulated by transcription from an EcfF-dependent consensus promoter, and its product is negatively regulated via protein-protein interaction with OsrA. Conserved cysteine residues 129 and 179 of OsrA are required for normal function of OsrA. Cysteine 179 is essential for release of EcfF from an EcfF-OsrA complex upon H2O2 stress while cysteine 129 is possibly needed for EcfF-OsrA interaction.
PMCID: PMC3420878  PMID: 22916258
3.  A Caulobacter crescentus Extracytoplasmic Function Sigma Factor Mediating the Response to Oxidative Stress in Stationary Phase†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(5):1835-1846.
Alternative sigma factors of the extracytoplasmic function (ECF) subfamily are important regulators of stress responses in bacteria and have been implicated in the control of homeostasis of the extracytoplasmic compartment of the cell. This work describes the characterization of sigF, encoding 1 of the 13 members of this subfamily identified in Caulobacter crescentus. A sigF-null strain was obtained and shown to be severely impaired in resistance to oxidative stress, caused by hydrogen peroxide treatment, exclusively during the stationary phase. Although sigF mRNA levels decrease in stationary-phase cells, the amount of σF protein is greatly increased at this stage, indicating a posttranscriptional control. Data obtained indicate that the FtsH protease is either directly or indirectly involved in the control of σF levels, as cells lacking this enzyme present larger amounts of the sigma factor. Increased stability of σF protein in stationary-phase cells of the parental strain and in exponential-phase cells of the ftsH-null strain is also demonstrated. Transcriptome analysis of the sigF-null strain led to the identification of eight genes regulated by σF during the stationary phase, including sodA and msrA, which are known to be involved in oxidative stress response.
PMCID: PMC1426549  PMID: 16484194
4.  Definition of the σW Regulon of Bacillus subtilis in the Absence of Stress 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48471.
Bacteria employ extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors for their responses to environmental stresses. Despite intensive research, the molecular dissection of ECF sigma factor regulons has remained a major challenge due to overlaps in the ECF sigma factor-regulated genes and the stimuli that activate the different ECF sigma factors. Here we have employed tiling arrays to single out the ECF σW regulon of the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis from the overlapping ECF σX, σY, and σM regulons. For this purpose, we profiled the transcriptome of a B. subtilis sigW mutant under non-stress conditions to select candidate genes that are strictly σW-regulated. Under these conditions, σW exhibits a basal level of activity. Subsequently, we verified the σW-dependency of candidate genes by comparing their transcript profiles to transcriptome data obtained with the parental B. subtilis strain 168 grown under 104 different conditions, including relevant stress conditions, such as salt shock. In addition, we investigated the transcriptomes of rasP or prsW mutant strains that lack the proteases involved in the degradation of the σW anti-sigma factor RsiW and subsequent activation of the σW-regulon. Taken together, our studies identify 89 genes as being strictly σW-regulated, including several genes for non-coding RNAs. The effects of rasP or prsW mutations on the expression of σW-dependent genes were relatively mild, which implies that σW-dependent transcription under non-stress conditions is not strictly related to RasP and PrsW. Lastly, we show that the pleiotropic phenotype of rasP mutant cells, which have defects in competence development, protein secretion and membrane protein production, is not mirrored in the transcript profile of these cells. This implies that RasP is not only important for transcriptional regulation via σW, but that this membrane protease also exerts other important post-transcriptional regulatory functions.
PMCID: PMC3498285  PMID: 23155385
5.  The Mycobacterium tuberculosis Extracytoplasmic-Function Sigma Factor SigL Regulates Polyketide Synthases and Secreted or Membrane Proteins and Is Required for Virulence 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(20):7062-7071.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis sigL encodes an extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factor and is adjacent to a gene for a membrane protein (Rv0736) that contains a conserved HXXXCXXC sequence. This motif is found in anti-sigma factors that regulate several ECF sigma factors, including those that control oxidative stress responses. In this work, SigL and Rv0736 were found to be cotranscribed, and the intracellular domain of Rv0736 was shown to interact specifically with SigL, suggesting that Rv0736 may encode an anti-sigma factor of SigL. An M. tuberculosis sigL mutant was not more susceptible than the parental strain to several oxidative and nitrosative stresses, and sigL expression was not increased in response to these stresses. In vivo, sigL is expressed from a weak SigL-independent promoter and also from a second SigL-dependent promoter. To identify SigL-regulated genes, sigL was overexpressed and microarray analysis of global transcription was performed. Four small operons, sigL (Rv0735)-Rv0736, mpt53 (Rv2878c)-Rv2877c, pks10 (Rv1660)-pks7 (Rv1661), and Rv1139c-Rv1138c, were among the most highly upregulated genes in the sigL-overexpressing strain. SigL-dependent transcription start sites of these operons were mapped, and the consensus promoter sequences TGAACC in the −35 region and CGTgtc in the −10 region were identified. In vitro, purified SigL specifically initiated transcription from the promoters of sigL, mpt53, and pks10. Additional genes, including four PE_PGRS genes, appear to be regulated indirectly by SigL. In an in vivo murine infection model, the sigL mutant strain showed marked attenuation, indicating that the sigL regulon is important in M. tuberculosis pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1251616  PMID: 16199577
6.  The essential genome of a bacterium 
This study reports the essential Caulobacter genome at 8 bp resolution determined by saturated transposon mutagenesis and high-throughput sequencing. This strategy is applicable to full genome essentiality studies in a broad class of bacterial species.
The essential Caulobacter genome was determined at 8 bp resolution using hyper-saturated transposon mutagenesis coupled with high-throughput sequencing.Essential protein-coding sequences comprise 90% of the essential genome; the remaining 10% comprising essential non-coding RNA sequences, gene regulatory elements and essential genome replication features.Of the 3876 annotated open reading frames (ORFs), 480 (12.4%) were essential ORFs, 3240 (83.6%) were non-essential ORFs and 156 (4.0%) were ORFs that severely impacted fitness when mutated.The essential elements are preferentially positioned near the origin and terminus of the Caulobacter chromosome.This high-resolution strategy is applicable to high-throughput, full genome essentiality studies and large-scale genetic perturbation experiments in a broad class of bacterial species.
The regulatory events that control polar differentiation and cell-cycle progression in the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus are highly integrated, and they have to occur in the proper order (McAdams and Shapiro, 2011). Components of the core regulatory circuit are largely known. Full discovery of its essential genome, including non-coding, regulatory and coding elements, is a prerequisite for understanding the complete regulatory network of this bacterial cell. We have identified all the essential coding and non-coding elements of the Caulobacter chromosome using a hyper-saturated transposon mutagenesis strategy that is scalable and can be readily extended to obtain rapid and accurate identification of the essential genome elements of any sequenced bacterial species at a resolution of a few base pairs.
We engineered a Tn5 derivative transposon (Tn5Pxyl) that carries at one end an inducible outward pointing Pxyl promoter (Christen et al, 2010). We showed that this transposon construct inserts into the genome randomly where it can activate or disrupt transcription at the site of integration, depending on the insertion orientation. DNA from hundred of thousands of transposon insertion sites reading outward into flanking genomic regions was parallel PCR amplified and sequenced by Illumina paired-end sequencing to locate the insertion site in each mutant strain (Figure 1). A single sequencing run on DNA from a mutagenized cell population yielded 118 million raw sequencing reads. Of these, >90 million (>80%) read outward from the transposon element into adjacent genomic DNA regions and the insertion site could be mapped with single nucleotide resolution. This yielded the location and orientation of 428 735 independent transposon insertions in the 4-Mbp Caulobacter genome.
Within non-coding sequences of the Caulobacter genome, we detected 130 non-disruptable DNA segments between 90 and 393 bp long in addition to all essential promoter elements. Among 27 previously identified and validated sRNAs (Landt et al, 2008), three were contained within non-disruptable DNA segments and another three were partially disruptable, that is, insertions caused a notable growth defect. Two additional small RNAs found to be essential are the transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA) and the ribozyme RNAseP (Landt et al, 2008). In addition to the 8 non-disruptable sRNAs, 29 out of the 130 intergenic essential non-coding sequences contained non-redundant tRNA genes; duplicated tRNA genes were non-essential. We also identified two non-disruptable DNA segments within the chromosomal origin of replication. Thus, we resolved essential non-coding RNAs, tRNAs and essential replication elements within the origin region of the chromosome. An additional 90 non-disruptable small genome elements of currently unknown function were identified. Eighteen of these are conserved in at least one closely related species. Only 2 could encode a protein of over 50 amino acids.
For each of the 3876 annotated open reading frames (ORFs), we analyzed the distribution, orientation, and genetic context of transposon insertions. There are 480 essential ORFs and 3240 non-essential ORFs. In addition, there were 156 ORFs that severely impacted fitness when mutated. The 8-bp resolution allowed a dissection of the essential and non-essential regions of the coding sequences. Sixty ORFs had transposon insertions within a significant portion of their 3′ region but lacked insertions in the essential 5′ coding region, allowing the identification of non-essential protein segments. For example, transposon insertions in the essential cell-cycle regulatory gene divL, a tyrosine kinase, showed that the last 204 C-terminal amino acids did not impact viability, confirming previous reports that the C-terminal ATPase domain of DivL is dispensable for viability (Reisinger et al, 2007; Iniesta et al, 2010). In addition, we found that 30 out of 480 (6.3%) of the essential ORFs appear to be shorter than the annotated ORF, suggesting that these are probably mis-annotated.
Among the 480 ORFs essential for growth on rich media, there were 10 essential transcriptional regulatory proteins, including 5 previously identified cell-cycle regulators (McAdams and Shapiro, 2003; Holtzendorff et al, 2004; Collier and Shapiro, 2007; Gora et al, 2010; Tan et al, 2010) and 5 uncharacterized predicted transcription factors. In addition, two RNA polymerase sigma factors RpoH and RpoD, as well as the anti-sigma factor ChrR, which mitigates rpoE-dependent stress response under physiological growth conditions (Lourenco and Gomes, 2009), were also found to be essential. Thus, a set of 10 transcription factors, 2 RNA polymerase sigma factors and 1 anti-sigma factor are the core essential transcriptional regulators for growth on rich media. To further characterize the core components of the Caulobacter cell-cycle control network, we identified all essential regulatory sequences and operon transcripts. Altogether, the 480 essential protein-coding and 37 essential RNA-coding Caulobacter genes are organized into operons such that 402 individual promoter regions are sufficient to regulate their expression. Of these 402 essential promoters, the transcription start sites (TSSs) of 105 were previously identified (McGrath et al, 2007).
The essential genome features are non-uniformly distributed on the Caulobacter genome and enriched near the origin and the terminus regions. In contrast, the chromosomal positions of the published E. coli essential coding sequences (Rocha, 2004) are preferentially located at either side of the origin (Figure 4A). This indicates that there are selective pressures on chromosomal positioning of some essential elements (Figure 4A).
The strategy described in this report could be readily extended to quickly determine the essential genome for a large class of bacterial species.
Caulobacter crescentus is a model organism for the integrated circuitry that runs a bacterial cell cycle. Full discovery of its essential genome, including non-coding, regulatory and coding elements, is a prerequisite for understanding the complete regulatory network of a bacterial cell. Using hyper-saturated transposon mutagenesis coupled with high-throughput sequencing, we determined the essential Caulobacter genome at 8 bp resolution, including 1012 essential genome features: 480 ORFs, 402 regulatory sequences and 130 non-coding elements, including 90 intergenic segments of unknown function. The essential transcriptional circuitry for growth on rich media includes 10 transcription factors, 2 RNA polymerase sigma factors and 1 anti-sigma factor. We identified all essential promoter elements for the cell cycle-regulated genes. The essential elements are preferentially positioned near the origin and terminus of the chromosome. The high-resolution strategy used here is applicable to high-throughput, full genome essentiality studies and large-scale genetic perturbation experiments in a broad class of bacterial species.
PMCID: PMC3202797  PMID: 21878915
functional genomics; next-generation sequencing; systems biology; transposon mutagenesis
7.  Roles of SigB and SigF in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis Sigma Factor Network▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(2):699-707.
To characterize the roles of SigB and SigF in sigma factor regulation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we used chemically inducible recombinant strains to conditionally overexpress sigB and sigF. Using whole genomic microarray analysis and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, we investigated the resulting global transcriptional changes after sigB induction, and we specifically tested the relative expression of other sigma factor genes after knock-in expression of sigB and sigF. Overexpression of sigB resulted in significant upregulation of genes encoding several early culture filtrate antigens (ESAT-6-like proteins), ribosomal proteins, PE-PGRS proteins, the keto-acyl synthase, KasA, and the regulatory proteins WhiB2 and IdeR. Of note, the induction of sigB did not alter the expression of other sigma factor genes, indicating that SigB is likely to serve as an end regulator for at least one branch of the M. tuberculosis sigma factor regulatory cascade. Analysis of the 5′-untranslated region (UTR) of SigB-dependent transcripts revealed a putative consensus sequence of NGTGG-N14-18-NNGNNG. This sequence appeared upstream of both sigB (Rv2710) and the gene following it, ideR (Rv2711), and in vitro transcription analysis with recombinant SigB-reconstituted RNA polymerase confirmed SigB-dependent transcription from each of these promoters. Knock-in expression of sigF revealed that only the sigC gene was significantly upregulated 6 and 12 h after sigF induction. The previously identified SigF promoter consensus sequence AGTTTG-N15-GGGTTT was identified in the 5′ UTR of the sigC gene, and SigF-dependent in vitro transcription of the promoter upstream of sigC was confirmed by using recombinant SigF-reconstituted RNA polymerase. These two knock-in recombinant strains were tested in a macrophage model of infection which showed that overexpression of sigB and sigF resulted in reduced rates of M. tuberculosis intracellular growth. These results define the SigB promoter consensus recognition sequence and members of the SigB regulon. Moreover, the data suggest that, in addition to serving as an end regulator in a sigma factor cascade, SigB may auto-amplify its own expression under certain conditions.
PMCID: PMC2223694  PMID: 17993538
8.  The SigF Regulon in Mycobacterium smegmatis Reveals Roles in Adaptation to Stationary Phase, Heat, and Oxidative Stress▿ ‡ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(10):2491-2502.
SigF is an alternative sigma factor that is highly conserved among species of the genus Mycobacterium. In this study we identified the SigF regulon in Mycobacterium smegmatis using whole-genome microarray and promoter consensus analyses. In total, 64 genes in exponential phase and 124 genes in stationary phase are SigF dependent (P < 0.01, >2-fold expression change). Our experimental data reveal the SigF-dependent promoter consensus GTTT-N(15-17)-GGGTA for M. smegmatis, and we propose 130 potential genes under direct control of SigF, of which more than 50% exhibited reduced expression in a ΔsigF strain. We previously reported an increased susceptibility of the ΔsigF strain to heat and oxidative stress, and our expression data indicate a molecular basis for these phenotypes. We observed SigF-dependent expression of several genes purportedly involved in oxidative stress defense, namely, a heme-containing catalase, a manganese-containing catalase, a superoxide dismutase, the starvation-induced DNA-protecting protein MsDps1, and the biosynthesis genes for the carotenoid isorenieratene. Our data suggest that SigF regulates the biosynthesis of the thermoprotectant trehalose, as well as an uptake system for osmoregulatory compounds, and this may explain the increased heat susceptibility of the ΔsigF strain. We identified the regulatory proteins SigH3, PhoP, WhiB1, and WhiB4 as possible genes under direct control of SigF and propose four novel anti-sigma factor antagonists that could be involved in the posttranslational regulation of SigF in M. smegmatis. This study emphasizes the importance of this sigma factor for stationary-phase adaptation and stress response in mycobacteria.
PMCID: PMC2863567  PMID: 20233930
9.  A Putative Bifunctional Histidine Kinase/Phosphatase of the HWE Family Exerts Positive and Negative Control on the Sinorhizobium meliloti General Stress Response 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(14):2526-2535.
The EcfG-type sigma factor RpoE2 is the regulator of the general stress response in Sinorhizobium meliloti. RpoE2 activity is negatively regulated by two NepR-type anti-sigma factors (RsiA1/A2), themselves under the control of two anti-anti-sigma factors (RsiB1/B2) belonging to the PhyR family of response regulators. The current model of RpoE2 activation suggests that in response to stress, RsiB1/B2 are activated by phosphorylation of an aspartate residue in their receiver domain. Once activated, RsiB1/B2 become able to interact with the anti-sigma factors and release RpoE2, which can then associate with the RNA polymerase to transcribe its target genes. The purpose of this work was to identify and characterize proteins involved in controlling the phosphorylation status of RsiB1/B2. Using in vivo approaches, we show that the putative histidine kinase encoded by the rsiC gene (SMc01507), located downstream from rpoE2, is able to both positively and negatively regulate the general stress response. In addition, our data suggest that the negative action of RsiC results from inhibition of RsiB1/B2 phosphorylation. From these observations, we propose that RsiC is a bifunctional histidine kinase/phosphatase responsible for RsiB1/B2 phosphorylation or dephosphorylation in the presence or absence of stress, respectively. Two proteins were previously proposed to control PhyR phosphorylation in Caulobacter crescentus and Sphingomonas sp. strain FR1. However, these proteins contain a Pfam:HisKA_2 domain of dimerization and histidine phosphotransfer, whereas S. meliloti RsiC harbors a Pfam:HWE_HK domain instead. Therefore, this is the first report of an HWE_HK-containing protein controlling the general stress response in Alphaproteobacteria.
PMCID: PMC4097584  PMID: 24794560
10.  The transcription factor NRSF contributes to epileptogenesis by selective repression of a subset of target genes 
eLife  2014;3:e01267.
The mechanisms generating epileptic neuronal networks following insults such as severe seizures are unknown. We have previously shown that interfering with the function of the neuron-restrictive silencer factor (NRSF/REST), an important transcription factor that influences neuronal phenotype, attenuated development of this disorder. In this study, we found that epilepsy-provoking seizures increased the low NRSF levels in mature hippocampus several fold yet surprisingly, provoked repression of only a subset (∼10%) of potential NRSF target genes. Accordingly, the repressed gene-set was rescued when NRSF binding to chromatin was blocked. Unexpectedly, genes selectively repressed by NRSF had mid-range binding frequencies to the repressor, a property that rendered them sensitive to moderate fluctuations of NRSF levels. Genes selectively regulated by NRSF during epileptogenesis coded for ion channels, receptors, and other crucial contributors to neuronal function. Thus, dynamic, selective regulation of NRSF target genes may play a role in influencing neuronal properties in pathological and physiological contexts.
eLife digest
Epilepsy is a common brain disease that can cause disabling seizures. During a seizure, brain cells send out abnormal signals, which can mean that people having seizures may be unaware of their surroundings and may fall or otherwise injure themselves.
Individuals with epilepsy develop changes in their brain cells and in the circuits that connect these cells together. Some people develop epilepsy because they have mutations in genes. Others develop the condition after an injury or a long seizure, which leads to changes in gene expression and therefore changes to the brain's cells and circuits.
In 2011, researchers found that a protein that normally switches off the expression of certain genes during brain development, but which is almost absent in the adult brain, may run amok after a seizure. The level of this protein—a transcription factor called NRSF—increased in the brains of rats that had been caused to have a seizure. A long provoked seizure caused many of the rats to develop epilepsy. But, if NRSF was blocked after the original seizure, the rats were less likely to have further seizures later on. Now McClelland et al., including several of the researchers involved in the 2011 work, have examined what normally happens to the expression of genes after a seizure and what happens when the NRSF transcription factor is blocked.
McClelland et al. found that only a small subset—about 10%—of the genes that can theoretically be silenced by NRSF are switched off in the brain when this protein's levels increase after a seizure. The increased NRSF levels, unexpectedly, did not affect the genes that bind tightly to this transcription factor. Nor did NRSF affect genes that bind loosely. Instead, the genes that the transcription factor binds to with an intermediate strength were the ones that were switched off. McClelland et al. suggest that this ‘mid-range binding’ to NRSF allows the expression of these genes to be increased or decreased in response to there being more or less NRSF in the cell. Genes that bind tightly to NRSF are likely to already have a lot of NRSF bound and are therefore already switched off; and loosely-binding genes would likely need even more NRSF before they are switched off.
The subset of genes that were switched off by the increased levels of NRSF after a seizure code for a number of proteins that brain cells need to be able to effectively send and receive messages. Blocking the ability of NRSF to bind to these genes and switch them off may help to prevent the brain changes that cause epilepsy.
PMCID: PMC4129437  PMID: 25117540
neuron-restrictive silencing factor; epilepsy; gene set enrichment analysis; rat
11.  Regulation of a heat shock sigma32 homolog in Caulobacter crescentus. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(7):1919-1927.
High temperature and other environmental stresses induce the expression of several heat shock proteins in Caulobacter crescentus, including the molecular chaperones DnaJ, DnaK, GrpE, and GroEL and the Lon protease. We report here the isolation of the rpoH gene encoding a homolog of the Escherichia coli RNA polymerase sigma32 subunit, the sigma factor responsible for the transcription of heat shock promoters. The C. crescentus sigma32 homolog, predicted to be a 33.7-kDa protein, is 42% identical to E. coli sigma32 and cross-reacts with a monoclonal antibody to E. coli sigma32. Functional homology was demonstrated by complementing the temperature-sensitive growth defect of an E. coli rpoH deletion mutant with the C. crescentus rpoH gene. Immunoblot analysis showed a transient rise in sigma32 levels after a temperature shift from 30 to 42 degrees C similar to that described for E. coli. In addition, increasing the cellular content of sigma32 by introducing a plasmid-encoded copy of rpoH induced DnaK expression in C. crescentus cultures grown at 30 degrees C. The C. crescentus rpoH gene was transcribed from either of two heat shock consensus promoters. rpoH transcription and sigma32 levels increased coordinately following heat shock, indicating that transcriptional regulation contributes to sigma32 expression in this organism. Both the rpoH gene and sigma32 protein were expressed constitutively throughout the cell cycle at 30 degrees C. The isolation of rpoH provides an important tool for future studies of the role of sigma32 in the normal physiology of C. crescentus.
PMCID: PMC177887  PMID: 8606166
12.  Influence of a Putative ECF Sigma Factor on Expression of the Major Outer Membrane Protein, OprF, in Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Pseudomonas fluorescens 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(16):4746-4754.
The gene encoding OprF, a major outer membrane protein in Pseudomonas species (formerly known as type 1 pseudomonads), was thought to be constitutively transcribed from a single sigma 70 promoter immediately upstream of the gene. We now report the identification of a novel putative ECF (extracytoplasmic function) sigma factor gene, sigX, located immediately upstream of oprF in both Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 and Pseudomonas fluorescens OE 28.3 and show that disruption of this gene significantly reduces OprF expression. In P. aeruginosa, Northern analysis demonstrated that this reduction was a result of an effect on transcription of monocistronic oprF combined with a polar effect due to termination of a transcript containing sigX and oprF. Comparison of sigX-disrupted and wild-type cell transcripts by primer extension indicated that monocistronic transcription of oprF occurs from two overlapping promoters, one that is SigX-dependent and resembles ECF sigma factor promoters in its minus-35 region and another promoter that is independent of SigX and is analogous to the sigma 70-type promoter previously reported. Complementation of the P. aeruginosa sigX-disrupted mutant with plasmid-encoded OprF did not resolve the phenotypes associated with this mutant, which included a markedly reduced logarithmic-phase growth rate in rich medium (compared to that in minimal medium), further reduction of the growth rate in a low-osmolarity environment, secretion of an unidentified pigment, and increased sensitivity to the antibiotic imipenem. This indicates that SigX is involved in the regulation of other genes in P. aeruginosa. Disruption of the sigX gene in P. fluorescens also had an effect on the logarithmic-phase growth rate in rich medium. A conserved sigX gene was also identified in a Pseudomonas syringae isolate and six P. aeruginosa clinical isolates. Collectively, these data indicate that an ECF sigma factor plays a role in the regulation and expression of OprF and also affects other genes.
PMCID: PMC93957  PMID: 10438740
13.  The Extracytoplasmic Function-Type Sigma Factor SigM of Corynebacterium glutamicum ATCC 13032 Is Involved in Transcription of Disulfide Stress-Related Genes▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(13):4696-4707.
The gene for the extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factor SigM was deleted from the chromosome of the gram-positive soil bacterium Corynebacterium glutamicum to elucidate the role of the SigM protein in the regulation of gene expression. Comparative DNA microarray hybridizations of the C. glutamicum wild type and sigM-deficient mutant C. glutamicum DN1 revealed 23 genes with enhanced expression in the sigM-proficient strain, encoding functions in the assembly of iron-sulfur clusters (suf operon), thioredoxin reductase (trxB), thioredoxins (trxC, trxB1), chaperones (groES, groEL, clpB), and proteins involved in the heat shock response (hspR, dnaJ, grpE). Deletion of the sigM gene rendered the C. glutamicum cells more sensitive to heat, cold, and the presence of the thiol oxidant diamide. Transcription of the sigM gene increased under different stress conditions, including heat shock, cold shock, and disulfide stress caused by diamide treatment, suggesting a regulatory role for SigM under thiol-oxidative stress conditions. Stress-responsive promoters were determined upstream of the suf operon and of the trxB, trxC, and trxB1 genes. The deduced SigM consensus promoter is characterized by the −35 hexamer gGGAAT and the −10 hexamer YGTTGR. Transcription of the sigM gene is apparently controlled by the ECF sigma factor SigH, since a sigH mutant was unable to enhance the expression of sigM and the SigM regulon under thiol-oxidative stress conditions. A typical SigH-responsive promoter was mapped upstream of the sigM gene. The ECF sigma factor SigM is apparently part of a regulatory cascade, and its transcription is controlled by SigH under conditions of thiol-oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC1913457  PMID: 17483229
14.  Transcriptional regulation of the operon encoding stress-responsive ECF sigma factor SigH and its anti-sigma factor RshA, and control of its regulatory network in Corynebacterium glutamicum 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:445.
The expression of genes in Corynebacterium glutamicum, a Gram-positive non-pathogenic bacterium used mainly for the industrial production of amino acids, is regulated by seven different sigma factors of RNA polymerase, including the stress-responsive ECF-sigma factor SigH. The sigH gene is located in a gene cluster together with the rshA gene, putatively encoding an anti-sigma factor. The aim of this study was to analyze the transcriptional regulation of the sigH and rshA gene cluster and the effects of RshA on the SigH regulon, in order to refine the model describing the role of SigH and RshA during stress response.
Transcription analyses revealed that the sigH gene and rshA gene are cotranscribed from four sigH housekeeping promoters in C. glutamicum. In addition, a SigH-controlled rshA promoter was found to only drive the transcription of the rshA gene. To test the role of the putative anti-sigma factor gene rshA under normal growth conditions, a C. glutamicum rshA deletion strain was constructed and used for genome-wide transcription profiling with DNA microarrays. In total, 83 genes organized in 61 putative transcriptional units, including those previously detected using sigH mutant strains, exhibited increased transcript levels in the rshA deletion mutant compared to its parental strain. The genes encoding proteins related to disulphide stress response, heat stress proteins, components of the SOS-response to DNA damage and proteasome components were the most markedly upregulated gene groups. Altogether six SigH-dependent promoters upstream of the identified genes were determined by primer extension and a refined consensus promoter consisting of 45 original promoter sequences was constructed.
The rshA gene codes for an anti-sigma factor controlling the function of the stress-responsive sigma factor SigH in C. glutamicum. Transcription of rshA from a SigH-dependent promoter may serve to quickly shutdown the SigH-dependent stress response after the cells have overcome the stress condition. Here we propose a model of the regulation of oxidative and heat stress response including redox homeostasis by SigH, RshA and the thioredoxin system.
PMCID: PMC3489674  PMID: 22943411
Corynebacterium glutamicum; ECF sigma factor; Anti-sigma factor; Promoter; Microarray analysis
15.  The Extracytoplasmic Function Sigma Factor EcfO Protects Bacteroides fragilis against Oxidative Stress 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(1):145-155.
The anaerobe Bacteroides fragilis is a highly aerotolerant, opportunistic pathogen that is an important component of the human intestinal microbiota. Aerotolerance has been linked to a robust oxidative stress response, which in turn is necessary for maximal virulence in a mouse intra-abdominal abscess model. During oxidative stress, there is a dynamic change in gene expression that encompasses a third of the genome, but there is a paucity of information on factors that control this response. A large number of transcription regulators, including about 14 extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors, are affected by oxidative stress, and one of these, EcfO, was used as a model of ECF sigma factor activity during stress. Genetic and biochemical experiments showed that EcfO was located in an operon with a structurally unique anti-sigma factor, Reo. Cells deleted for EcfO were impaired during exposure to oxygen or other forms of oxidative stress, whereas reo mutants were more resistant to stress. Protein-protein interaction experiments demonstrated that Reo directly interacts with and regulates the activity of EcfO. Expression microarray and chromatin affinity precipitation assays were used to identify target genes regulated by EcfO, and an EcfO recognition sequence was identified. The results revealed that EcfO controls a regulon of novel lipoproteins whose distribution in nature is restricted to members of the Bacteroidetes phylum.
PMCID: PMC3536166  PMID: 23104808
16.  The Caulobacter heat shock sigma factor gene rpoH is positively autoregulated from a sigma32-dependent promoter. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(2):514-521.
Sigma factor sigma32, encoded by rpoH, is required for the recognition of heat shock genes during normal growth conditions and in response to heat shock and other stresses. Unlike the well-studied Escherichia coli rpoH gene, which is transcribed from four promoters recognized by either a sigma70 (sigmaD)- or sigma24 (sigmaE)-containing RNA polymerase, the Caulobacter crescentus rpoH gene is transcribed from two promoters, P1 and P2. In this study, we have examined the structure and expression of these promoters and shown that the rpoH P2 promoter is sigma32 dependent. We present evidence here that P2 is specifically recognized and transcribed by the reconstituted C. crescentus Esigma32 RNA polymerase holoenzyme. We show that site-directed mutations within either the -10 or the -35 regions of P2 have substantial effects on the levels of transcription by the Esigma32 polymerase predicted from the sigma32 promoter consensus sequence. The mutations have similar effects in vivo as assayed with rpoH-lacZ transcription fusions. Analysis of the rpoH P1 promoter provided evidence that it is sigma70 dependent. S1 nuclease protection assays of rpoH P1- and P2-specific expression after heat shock at 42 or 50 degrees C and during synchronous cell division cycles under normal growth conditions showed that the two promoters are differentially regulated. Mutations within the rpoH P2 promoter consensus sequences abolished the response to heat shock induction in C. crescentus. We conclude from these results that, unlike rpoH genes studied previously in other bacteria, the major transcriptional response of the C. crescentus rpoH gene to heat shock depends on positive autoregulation of the sigma32-dependent promoter.
PMCID: PMC178723  PMID: 8990305
17.  Genome-Wide Definition of the SigF Regulon in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(8):2001-2009.
In Mycobacterium tuberculosis the alternative sigma factor SigF controls the expression of a particular subset of genes by altering RNA polymerase specificity. Here, we utilize two genome-wide approaches to identify SigF-binding sites: chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP-on-chip) and microarray analysis of SigF-mediated transcripts. Since SigF is not an abundant protein in the logarithmic phase of growth, a pristinamyin IA-inducible system was used to control its expression. We identified 67 high-affinity SigF-binding sites and 16 loci where a SigF promoter directs the expression of a transcript. These loci include sigF itself, genes involved in lipid and intermediary metabolism and virulence, and at least one transcriptional regulator (Rv2884), possibly acting downstream of SigF. In addition, SigF was also found to direct the transcription of the gene for small RNA F6. Many loci were also found where SigF may be involved in antisense transcription, and in two cases (Rv1358 and Rv1870c) the SigF-dependent promoter was located within the predicted coding sequence. Quantitative PCR confirmed the microarray findings and 5′-rapid amplification of cDNA ends was used to map the SigF-specific transcriptional start points. A canonical SigF consensus promoter sequence GGTTT-N(15-17)-GGGTA was found prior to 11 genes. Together, these data help to define the SigF regulon and show that SigF not only governs expression of proteins such as the virulence factor, HbhA, but also impacts novel functions, such as noncoding RNAs and antisense transcripts.
PMCID: PMC3318452  PMID: 22307756
18.  A Mycobacterial Extracytoplasmic Sigma Factor Involved in Survival following Heat Shock and Oxidative Stress 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(14):4266-4274.
Extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors are a heterogeneous group of alternative sigma factors that regulate gene expression in response to a variety of conditions, including stress. We previously characterized a mycobacterial ECF sigma factor, SigE, that contributes to survival following several distinct stresses. A gene encoding a closely related sigma factor, sigH, was cloned from Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium smegmatis. A single copy of this gene is present in these and other fast- and slow-growing mycobacteria, including M. fortuitum and M. avium. While the M. tuberculosis and M. smegmatis sigH genes encode highly similar proteins, there are multiple differences in adjacent genes. The single in vivo transcriptional start site identified in M. smegmatis and one of two identified in M. bovis BCG were found to have −35 promoter sequences that match the ECF-dependent −35 promoter consensus. Expression from these promoters was strongly induced by 50°C heat shock. In comparison to the wild type, an M. smegmatis sigH mutant was found to be more susceptible to cumene hydroperoxide stress but to be similar in logarithmic growth, stationary-phase survival, and survival following several other stresses. Survival of an M. smegmatis sigH sigE double mutant was found to be markedly decreased following 53°C heat shock and following exposure to cumene hydroperoxide. Expression of the second gene in the sigH operon is required for complementation of the sigH stress phenotypes. SigH is an alternative sigma factor that plays a role in the mycobacterial stress response.
PMCID: PMC93928  PMID: 10400584
19.  A mycobacterial extracytoplasmic function sigma factor involved in survival following stress. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(9):2922-2929.
The extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors constitute a diverse group of alternative sigma factors that have been demonstrated to regulate gene expression in response to environmental conditions in several bacterial species. Genes encoding an ECF sigma factor of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium avium, and Mycobacterium smegmatis, designated sigE, were cloned and analyzed. Southern blot analysis demonstrated the presence of a single copy of this gene in these species and in Mycobacterium bovis BCG, Mycobacterium leprae, and Mycobacterium fortuitum. Sequence analysis showed the sigE gene to be highly conserved among M. tuberculosis, M. avium, M. smegmatis, and M. leprae. Recombinant M. tuberculosis SigE, when combined with core RNA polymerase from M. smegmatis, reconstituted specific RNA polymerase activity on sigE in vitro, demonstrating that this gene encodes a functional sigma factor. Two in vivo transcription start sites for sigE were also identified in M. smegmatis and M. bovis BCG. Comparison of wild-type M. smegmatis with a sigE mutant strain demonstrated decreased survival of the mutant under conditions of high-temperature heat shock, acidic pH, exposure to detergent, and oxidative stress. An inducible protective response to oxidative stress present in the wild type was absent in the mutant. The mycobacterial SigE protein, although nonessential for viability in vitro, appears to play a role in the ability of these organisms to withstand a variety of stresses.
PMCID: PMC179055  PMID: 9139909
20.  Insights into the Extracytoplasmic Stress Response of Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris: Role and Regulation of σE-Dependent Activity ▿ ‡  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;193(1):246-264.
Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris is an epiphytic bacterium that can become a vascular pathogen responsible for black rot disease of crucifers. To adapt gene expression in response to ever-changing habitats, phytopathogenic bacteria have evolved signal transduction regulatory pathways, such as extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factors. The alternative sigma factor σE, encoded by rpoE, is crucial for envelope stress response and plays a role in the pathogenicity of many bacterial species. Here, we combine different approaches to investigate the role and mechanism of σE-dependent activation in X. campestris pv. campestris. We show that the rpoE gene is organized as a single transcription unit with the anti-σ gene rseA and the protease gene mucD and that rpoE transcription is autoregulated. rseA and mucD transcription is also controlled by a highly conserved σE-dependent promoter within the σE gene sequence. The σE-mediated stress response is required for stationary-phase survival, resistance to cadmium, and adaptation to membrane-perturbing stresses (elevated temperature and ethanol). Using microarray technology, we started to define the σE regulon of X. campestris pv. campestris. These genes encode proteins belonging to different classes, including periplasmic or membrane proteins, biosynthetic enzymes, classical heat shock proteins, and the heat stress σ factor σH. The consensus sequence for the predicted σE-regulated promoter elements is GGAACTN15-17GTCNNA. Determination of the rpoH transcription start site revealed that rpoH was directly regulated by σE under both normal and heat stress conditions. Finally, σE activity is regulated by the putative regulated intramembrane proteolysis (RIP) proteases RseP and DegS, as previously described in many other bacteria. However, our data suggest that RseP and DegS are not only dedicated to RseA cleavage and that the proteolytic cascade of RseA could involve other proteases.
PMCID: PMC3019944  PMID: 20971899
21.  Transcriptional Repression by Neuron-Restrictive Silencer Factor Is Mediated via the Sin3-Histone Deacetylase Complex 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2000;20(6):2147-2157.
A large number of neuron-specific genes characterized to date are under the control of negative transcriptional regulation. Many promoter regions of neuron-specific genes possess the repressor element repressor element 1/neuron-restrictive silencing element (RE1/NRSE). Its cognate binding protein, REST/NRSF, is an essential transcription factor; its null mutations result in embryonic lethality, and its dominant negative mutants produce aberrant expression of neuron-specific genes. REST/NRSF acts as a regulator of neuron-specific gene expression in both nonneuronal tissue and developing neurons. Here, we shown that heterologous expression of REST/NRSF in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is able to repress transcription from yeast promoters engineered to contain RE1/NRSEs. Moreover, we have taken advantage of this observation to show that this repression requires both yeast Sin3p and Rpd3p and that REST/NRSF physically interacts with the product of the yeast SIN3 gene in vivo. Furthermore, we show that REST/NRSF binds mammalian SIN3A and HDAC-2 and requires histone deacetylase activity to repress neuronal gene transcription in both nonneuronal and neuronal cell lines. We show that REST/NRSF binding to RE1/NRSE is accompanied by a decrease in the acetylation of histones around RE1/NRSE and that this decrease requires the N-terminal Sin3p binding domain of REST/NRSF. Taken together, these data suggest that REST/NRSF represses neuronal gene transcription by recruiting the SIN3/HDAC complex.
PMCID: PMC110831  PMID: 10688661
22.  Identification of Genes in the σ22 Regulon of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Required for Cell Envelope Homeostasis in Either the Planktonic or the Sessile Mode of Growth 
mBio  2012;3(3):e00094-12.
The Pseudomonas aeruginosa extracytoplasmic functioning (ECF) sigma factor σ22 is encoded by algT/algU and is inhibited by anti-sigma factor MucA. σ22 was originally discovered for its essential role in the expression of the exopolysaccharide alginate by mucoid strains associated with chronic pulmonary infection. However, σ22 is now known to also have a large regulon associated with the response to cell wall stress. Our recent transcriptome analysis identified 293 open reading frames (ORFs) in the σ22 stress stimulon that include genes for outer envelope biogenesis and remodeling, although most of the genes have undefined functions. To better understand the σ22-dependent stress response, mutants affected in 27 genes of the σ22 stimulon were examined and expression was studied with lacZ fusions. Mutants constructed in the 27 genes showed no major change in response to cell wall-acting antibiotics or growth at elevated temperatures nor in alginate production. The mutants were examined for their effects on the expression of the σ22-dependent promoter of the alginate biosynthetic operon (PalgD) as a measure of σ22 derepression from MucA. By testing PalgD expression under both planktonic and sessile growth conditions, 11 genes were found to play a role in the stress response that activates σ22. Some mutations caused an increase or a decrease in the response to cell wall stress. Interestingly, mutations in 7 of the 11 genes caused constitutive PalgD expression under nonstressed conditions and thus showed that these genes are involved in maintaining envelope homeostasis. Mutations in PA0062 and PA1324 showed constitutive PalgD expression during both the planktonic and the sessile modes of growth. However, the PA5178 mutation caused constitutive PalgD expression only during planktonic growth. In contrast, mutations in PA2717, PA0567, PA3040, and PA0920 caused constitutive PalgD expression only in the sessile/biofilm mode of growth. This provides evidence that the σ22 stimulon for cell envelope homeostasis overlaps with biofilm control mechanisms.
During chronic lung infections, such as in cystic fibrosis patients, Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces the exopolysaccharide alginate and forms biofilms that shield the organisms from the immune response and increase resistance to antibiotics. Activation of alginate genes is under the control of an extracytoplasmic stress response system that releases an alternative sigma factor (σ22) in response to cell wall stress and then activates expression of a large regulon. In this study, a mutant analysis of 27 members of the regulon showed that 11 play a role in envelope homeostasis and affect the stress response system itself. Interestingly, some genes demonstrate effects only in either the planktonic (free-swimming) or the sessile (biofilm) mode of growth, which leads to persistence and antibiotic tolerance. The studies presented here provide an important initial step in dissecting the mechanisms that regulate a critical signal transduction pathway that impacts P. aeruginosa pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3372973  PMID: 22589289
23.  Evidence of the neuron-restrictive silencer factor (NRSF) interaction with Sp3 and its synergic repression to the mu opioid receptor (MOR) gene 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(22):6392-6403.
Previously, we reported that the neuron-restrictive silencer element (NRSE) of mu opioid receptor (MOR) functions as a critical regulator to repress the MOR transcription in specific neuronal cells, depending on neuron-restriction silence factor (NRSF) expression levels [C.S.Kim, C.K.Hwang, H.S.Choi, K.Y.Song, P.Y.Law, L.N.Wei and H.H.Loh (2004) J. Biol. Chem., 279, 46464–46473]. Herein, we identify a conserved GC sequence next to NRSE region in the mouse MOR gene. The inhibition of Sp family factors binding to this GC box by mithramycin A led to a significant increase in the endogenous MOR transcription. In the co-immunoprecipitation experiment, NRSF interacted with the full-length Sp3 factor, but not with Sp1 or two short Sp3 isoforms. The sequence specific and functional binding by Sp3 at this GC box was confirmed by in vitro gel-shift assays using either in vitro translated proteins or nuclear extract, and by in vivo chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. Transient transfection assays showed that Sp3-binding site of the MOR gene is a functionally synergic repressor element with NRSE in NS20Y cells, but not in the NRSF negative PC12 cells. The results suggest that the synergic interaction between NRSF and Sp3 is required to negatively regulate MOR gene transcription and that transcription of MOR gene would be governed by the context of available transcription factors rather than by a master regulator.
PMCID: PMC1702488  PMID: 17130167
24.  A feedback loop regulates the switch from one sigma factor to the next in the cascade controlling Bacillus subtilis mother cell gene expression. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(19):6138-6144.
Regulation of gene expression in the mother cell compartment of sporulating Bacillus subtilis involves sequential activation and inactivation of several transcription factors. Among them are two sigma factors, sigmaE and sigmaK, and a DNA-binding protein, SpoIIID. A decrease in the level of SpoIIID is thought to relieve its repressive effect on transcription by sigmaK RNA polymerase of certain spore coat genes. Previous studies showed that sigmaK negatively regulates the level of spoIIID mRNA. Here, it is shown that sigmaK does not affect the stability of spoIIID mRNA. Rather, sigmaK appears to negatively regulate the synthesis of spoIIID mRNA by accelerating the disappearance of sigmaE RNA polymerase, which transcribes spoIIID. As sigmaK begins to accumulate by 4 h into sporulation, the sigmaE level drops rapidly in wild-type cells but remains twofold to fivefold higher in sigK mutant cells during the subsequent 4 h. In a strain engineered to produce sigmaK 1 h earlier than normal, twofold less sigmaE than that in wild-type cells accumulates. SigmaK did not detectably alter the stability of sigmaE in pulse-chase experiments. However, beta-galactosidase expression from a sigE-lacZ transcriptional fusion showed a pattern similar to the level of sigmaE protein in sigK mutant cells and cells prematurely expressing sigmaK. These results suggest that the appearance of sigmaK initiates a negative feedback loop controlling not only transcription of spoIIID, but the entire sigmaE regulon, by directly or indirectly inhibiting the transcription of sigE.
PMCID: PMC179520  PMID: 9324264
25.  Canonical and non-canonical EcfG sigma factors control the general stress response in Rhizobium etli 
MicrobiologyOpen  2013;2(6):976-987.
A core component of the α-proteobacterial general stress response (GSR) is the extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factor EcfG, exclusively present in this taxonomic class. Half of the completed α-proteobacterial genome sequences contain two or more copies of genes encoding σEcfG-like sigma factors, with the primary copy typically located adjacent to genes coding for a cognate anti-sigma factor (NepR) and two-component response regulator (PhyR). So far, the widespread occurrence of additional, non-canonical σEcfG copies has not satisfactorily been explained. This study explores the hierarchical relation between Rhizobium etli σEcfG1 and σEcfG2, canonical and non-canonical σEcfG proteins, respectively. Contrary to reports in other species, we find that σEcfG1 and σEcfG2 act in parallel, as nodes of a complex regulatory network, rather than in series, as elements of a linear regulatory cascade. We demonstrate that both sigma factors control unique yet also shared target genes, corroborating phenotypic evidence. σEcfG1 drives expression of rpoH2, explaining the increased heat sensitivity of an ecfG1 mutant, while katG is under control of σEcfG2, accounting for reduced oxidative stress resistance of an ecfG2 mutant. We also identify non-coding RNA genes as novel σEcfG targets. We propose a modified model for GSR regulation in R. etli, in which σEcfG1 and σEcfG2 function largely independently. Based on a phylogenetic analysis and considering the prevalence of α-proteobacterial genomes with multiple σEcfG copies, this model may also be applicable to numerous other species.
PMCID: PMC3892343  PMID: 24311555
ECF sigma factor; EcfG; general stress response; PhyR; TcrX; α-proteobacteria

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