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Mol Microbiol. 2003 Jun;48(6):1621-31.

Escherichia coli SspA is a transcription activator for bacteriophage P1 late genes.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, 37 Convent Drive, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892-4264, USA.


The stringent starvation protein A (SspA), an Escherichia coli RNA polymerase (RNAP)-associated protein, has been reported to be essential for lytic growth of bacteriophage P1. Unlike P1 early promoters, P1 late promoters are not recognized by RNAP alone. A phage-encoded early protein, Lpa (late promoter activator protein, formerly called gp10), has been shown to be required for P1 late transcription in vivo. Here, we demonstrate that SspA is a transcription activator for P1 late genes. Our results indicated that Lpa is not limiting in an sspA mutant. However, the transcription of P1 late genes was deficient in an sspA mutant in vivo. We demonstrated that SspA/Lpa are required for transcription activation of the P1 late promoter Ps in vitro. In addition, SspA and Lpa were shown to facilitate the binding of RNAP to Ps late promoter DNA. Activation of late transcription by SspA/Lpa was dependent on holoenzyme containing sigma70 but not sigmaS, indicating that the two activators discriminate between the two forms of the holoenzyme. Furthermore, P1 early gene expression was downregulated in the wild-type background, whereas it persisted in the sspA mutant background, indicating that SspA/Lpa mediate the transcriptional switch from the early to the late genes during P1 lytic growth. Thus, this work provides the first evidence for a function of the E. coli RNAP-associated protein SspA.

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