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J Bacteriol. 2006 Oct;188(20):7267-73.

Blocking chromosome translocation during sporulation of Bacillus subtilis can result in prespore-specific activation of sigmaG that is independent of sigmaE and of engulfment.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, 3400 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA.


Formation of spores by Bacillus subtilis is characterized by cell compartment-specific gene expression directed by four RNA polymerase sigma factors, which are activated in the order sigma(F)-sigma(E)-sigma(G)-sigma(K). Of these, sigma(G) becomes active in the prespore upon completion of engulfment of the prespore by the mother cell. Transcription of the gene encoding sigma(G), spoIIIG, is directed in the prespore by RNA polymerase containing sigma(F) but also requires the activity of sigma(E) in the mother cell. When first formed, sigma(G) is not active. Its activation requires expression of additional sigma(E)-directed genes, including the genes required for completion of engulfment. Here we report conditions in which sigma(G) becomes active in the prespore in the absence of sigma(E) activity and of completion of engulfment. The conditions are (i) having an spoIIIE mutation, so that only the origin-proximal 30% of the chromosome is translocated into the prespore, and (ii) placing spoIIIG in an origin-proximal location on the chromosome. The main function of the sigma(E)-directed regulation appears to be to coordinate sigma(G) activation with the completion of engulfment, not to control the level of sigma(G) activity. It seems plausible that the role of sigma(E) in sigma(G) activation is to reverse some inhibitory signal (or signals) in the engulfed prespore, a signal that is not present in the spoIIIE mutant background. It is not clear what the direct activator of sigma(G) in the prespore is. Competition for core RNA polymerase between sigma(F) and sigma(G) is unlikely to be of major importance.

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