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Mol Microbiol. 1996 Apr;20(2):339-50.

Bacillus subtilis operon under the dual control of the general stress transcription factor sigma B and the sporulation transcription factor sigma H.

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Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


The sigma B transcription factor of Bacillus subtilis is activated in response to a variety of environmental stresses, including those imposed by entry into the stationary-growth phase, and by heat, salt or ethanol challenge to logarithmically growing cells. Although sigma B is thought to control a general stress regulon, the range of cellular functions it directs remains largely unknown. Our approach to understand the physiological role of sigma B is to characterize genes that require this factor for all or part of their expression, i.e. the csb genes. In this study, we report that the transposon insertion csb40::Tn917lac identifies an operon with three open reading frames, the second of which resembles plant proteins induced by desiccation stress. Primer-extension and operon-fusion experiments showed that the csb40 operon has a sigma B-dependent promoter which is strongly induced by the addition of salt to logarithmically growing cells. The csb40 operon also has a second, sigma H-dependent promoter that is unaffected by salt addition. These results provide support for the hypothesis that sigma B controls a general stress regulon, and indicate that the sigma B and sigma H regulons partly overlap. We suggest that in addition to its acknowledged role in the sporulation process, sigma H is also involved in controlling a subclass of genes that are broadly involved in a general stress response.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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