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J Mol Biol. 1989 Apr 20;206(4):605-14.

Mutation changing the specificity of an RNA polymerase sigma factor.

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Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.


We describe a mutation that changes the fine specificity of promoter selection by a secondary form of RNA polymerase holoenzyme in Bacillus subtilis. The product of regulatory gene spo0H is an RNA polymerase sigma factor called sigma H, which directs transcription of a sporulation gene known as spoVG. We show that the spo0H mutation spo0H81, which blocks transcription from the wild-type spoVG promoter, enhances transcription from a mutant form of the spoVG promoter (spoVG249) bearing a severe down-mutation (a G.C to A.T transition) at position -13 in the "-10 region." Suppression of the spoVG249 mutation is specific in the sense that the transcription from several other spoVG mutant promoters was not restored by the mutant sigma. Evidently, spo0H81 is a change-of-specificity mutation that alters sigma H-RNA polymerase in a way that decreases its capacity to use the wild-type spoVG promoter, while increasing its capacity to use the mutant promoter. Transcription experiments in vitro using RNA polymerase containing the wild-type or mutant sigma support this interpretation. The spo0H81 mutation causes a threonine (Thr100) to isoleucine substitution in a region of sigma H that is highly homologous among sigma factors of diverse origins. We discuss the possibility that Thr100 is an amino acid-base-pair contact site and that sigma factors contact the -10 region of their cognate promoters by means of amino acid residues in this highly conserved region.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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