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Science. 1989 Jan 27;243(4890):526-9.

Switch protein alters specificity of RNA polymerase containing a compartment-specific sigma factor.

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  • 1Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.


During sporulation in Bacillus subtilis, expression of developmental genes spoIVCB and cotD is induced in the mother cell compartment of the sporangium at morphological stages IV and V, respectively. A 27-kilodalton RNA polymerase sigma factor called sigma K (or sigma 27) has been found that causes weak transcription of spoIVCB and strong transcription of cotD. A 14-kD protein was also discovered that changes the specificity of sigma K-containing RNA polymerase, greatly stimulating spoIVCB transcription and markedly repressing cotD transcription. Both sigma K and the 14-kD protein are products of genes known to be required for expression of specific genes in the mother cell. Thus, sigma K directs gene expression in the mother cell and it is proposed that inactivation or sequestering of the 14-kD protein switches the temporal pattern of gene expression during the transition from stages IV to V of development.

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