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J Bacteriol. 2009 Apr;191(8):2728-42. doi: 10.1128/JB.01839-08. Epub 2009 Feb 6.

Sporulation and enterotoxin (CPE) synthesis are controlled by the sporulation-specific sigma factors SigE and SigK in Clostridium perfringens.

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Department of Biological Sciences, 2119 Derring Hall, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.


Clostridium perfringens is the third most frequent cause of bacterial food poisoning annually in the United States. Ingested C. perfringens vegetative cells sporulate in the intestinal tract and produce an enterotoxin (CPE) that is responsible for the symptoms of acute food poisoning. Studies of Bacillus subtilis have shown that gene expression during sporulation is compartmentalized, with different genes expressed in the mother cell and the forespore. The cell-specific RNA polymerase sigma factors sigma(F), sigma(E), sigma(G), and sigma(K) coordinate much of the developmental process. The C. perfringens cpe gene, encoding CPE, is transcribed from three promoters, where P1 was proposed to be sigma(K) dependent, while P2 and P3 were proposed to be sigma(E) dependent based on consensus promoter recognition sequences. In this study, mutations were introduced into the sigE and sigK genes of C. perfringens. With the sigE and sigK mutants, gusA fusion assays indicated that there was no expression of cpe in either mutant. Results from gusA fusion assays and immunoblotting experiments indicate that sigma(E)-associated RNA polymerase and sigma(K)-associated RNA polymerase coregulate each other's expression. Transcription and translation of the spoIIID gene in C. perfringens were not affected by mutations in sigE and sigK, which differs from B. subtilis, in which spoIIID transcription requires sigma(E)-associated RNA polymerase. The results presented here show that the regulation of developmental events in the mother cell compartment of C. perfringens is not the same as that in B. subtilis and Clostridium acetobutylicum.

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