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Mol Microbiol. 2008 Aug;69(3):765-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2008.06330.x.

Activation of transcription initiation by Spx: formation of transcription complex and identification of a Cis-acting element required for transcriptional activation.

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Department of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems, OGI School of Science and Engineering, Oregon Health and Science University, 20000 NW Walker Rd., Beaverton, OR 97006, USA.


The Spx protein of Bacillus subtilis interacts with RNA polymerase (RNAP) to activate transcription initiation in response to thiol-oxidative stress. Protein-DNA cross-linking analysis of reactions containing RNAP, Spx and trxA (thioredoxin) or trxB (thioredoxin reductase) promoter DNA was undertaken to uncover the organization of the Spx-activated transcription initiation complex. Spx induced contact between the RNAP sigma(A) subunit and the -10 promoter sequence of trxA and B, and contact of the betabeta' subunits with core promoter DNA. No Spx-DNA contact was detected. Spx mutants, Spx(C10A) and Spx(G52R.), or RNAP alpha C-terminal domain mutants that impair productive Spx-RNAP interaction did not induce heightened sigma and betabeta' contact with the core promoter. Deletion analysis and the activity of hybrid promoter constructs having upstream trxB DNA fused at positions -31, -36 and -41 of the srf (surfactin synthetase) promoter indicated that a cis-acting site between -50 and -36 was required for Spx activity. Mutations at -43 and -44 of trxB abolished Spx-dependent transcription and Spx-induced cross-linking between the sigma subunit and the -10 region. These data are consistent with a model that Spx activation requires contact between the Spx/RNAP complex and upstream promoter DNA, which allows Spx-induced engagement of the sigma and large subunits with the core promoter.

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