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PLoS Genet. 2012 Sep;8(9):e1002929. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002929. Epub 2012 Sep 13.

Convergence of the transcriptional responses to heat shock and singlet oxygen stresses.

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Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.


Cells often mount transcriptional responses and activate specific sets of genes in response to stress-inducing signals such as heat or reactive oxygen species. Transcription factors in the RpoH family of bacterial alternative σ factors usually control gene expression during a heat shock response. Interestingly, several α-proteobacteria possess two or more paralogs of RpoH, suggesting some functional distinction. We investigated the target promoters of Rhodobacter sphaeroides RpoH(I) and RpoH(II) using genome-scale data derived from gene expression profiling and the direct interactions of each protein with DNA in vivo. We found that the RpoH(I) and RpoH(II) regulons have both distinct and overlapping gene sets. We predicted DNA sequence elements that dictate promoter recognition specificity by each RpoH paralog. We found that several bases in the highly conserved TTG in the -35 element are important for activity with both RpoH homologs; that the T-9 position, which is over-represented in the RpoH(I) promoter sequence logo, is critical for RpoH(I)-dependent transcription; and that several bases in the predicted -10 element were important for activity with either RpoH(II) or both RpoH homologs. Genes that are transcribed by both RpoH(I) and RpoH(II) are predicted to encode for functions involved in general cell maintenance. The functions specific to the RpoH(I) regulon are associated with a classic heat shock response, while those specific to RpoH(II) are associated with the response to the reactive oxygen species, singlet oxygen. We propose that a gene duplication event followed by changes in promoter recognition by RpoH(I) and RpoH(II) allowed convergence of the transcriptional responses to heat and singlet oxygen stress in R. sphaeroides and possibly other bacteria.

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