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Mol Microbiol. 1999 Jul;33(1):8-17.

Bacterial transcription factors involved in global regulation.

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Centro Nacional de Biotecnología CSIC, Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


The presence of intricate global cell regulation mechanisms may be one reason for the exceptional environmental and evolutionary success of microbes. Promoters, the cis-acting signals, are responsive to several stimuli related to growth, stress and substrate specificity. Their response is mediated by a wide variety of trans-acting regulators that sense the environment and the physiological state of the cell and adjust the transcription of specific genes. One of the main transcriptional regulation webs operates in the transition from affluent to barren conditions, with sigmaS being the chief actor in a company of players that stage a competition for the sparsely available RNA polymerase molecules. In this role, sigmaS may be assisted by several factors, including nucleoid-related proteins and metabolites. In addition, the levels of sigmaS itself are regulated by mechanisms that include inactivation and degradation. Several transcription factors, belonging to different regulatory pathways, may operate in the same promoter. In such a case, the final transcriptional output depends both on the interplay of effectors and on the properties of the recruitment of the effector-RNA polymerase complex to the promoter. RNA polymerase itself is also capable of establishing selective interactions with activators and specific promoter regions through the carboxy-terminal domain of its alpha subunit (alphaCTD). Transcriptional regulation controls pervade such crucial events in the life of bacterial cells as Escherichia coli cell division, Bacillus subtilis sporulation and Caulobacter crescentus differentiation. These examples suggest that bacteria have been particularly inventive in adapting gene expression regulation to survive under a diversity of environments and have done so by exploiting the malleable molecular mechanisms involved in transcription, developing complexities that may match those found in eukaryotic cells.

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