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J Bacteriol. 2007 Jun;189(11):4204-16. Epub 2007 Mar 30.

An extracytoplasmic function sigma factor acts as a general stress response regulator in Sinorhizobium meliloti.

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  • 1Laboratoire des Interactions Plantes-Microorganismes, UMR 2594-441 CNRS-INRA, BP52627, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan Cedex, France.


Sinorhizobium meliloti genes transcriptionally up-regulated after heat stress, as well as upon entry into stationary phase, were identified by microarray analyses. Sixty stress response genes were thus found to be up-regulated under both conditions. One of them, rpoE2 (smc01506), encodes a putative extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factor. We showed that this sigma factor controls its own transcription and is activated by various stress conditions, including heat and salt, as well as entry into stationary phase after either carbon or nitrogen starvation. We also present evidence that the product of the gene cotranscribed with rpoE2 negatively regulates RpoE2 activity, and we therefore propose that it plays the function of anti-sigma factor. By combining transcriptomic, bioinformatic, and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR analyses, we identified 44 RpoE2-controlled genes and predicted the number of RpoE2 targets to be higher. Strikingly, more than one-third of the 60 stress response genes identified in this study are RpoE2 targets. Interestingly, two genes encoding proteins with known functions in stress responses, namely, katC and rpoH2, as well as a second ECF-encoding gene, rpoE5, were found to be RpoE2 regulated. Altogether, these data suggest that RpoE2 is a major global regulator of the general stress response in S. meliloti. Despite these observations, and although this sigma factor is well conserved among alphaproteobacteria, no in vitro nor in planta phenotypic difference from the wild-type strain could be detected for rpoE2 mutants. This therefore suggests that other important actors in the general stress response have still to be identified in S. meliloti.

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