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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Dec;87(24):9722-6.

Processing of the mother-cell sigma factor, sigma K, may depend on events occurring in the forespore during Bacillus subtilis development.

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Department of Biochemistry, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824.


During sporulation of the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis, transcription of genes encoding spore coat proteins in the mother-cell compartment of the sporangium is controlled by RNA polymerase containing the sigma subunit called sigma K. Based on comparison of the N-terminal amino acid sequence of sigma K with the nucleotide sequence of the gene encoding sigma K (sigK), the primary product of sigK was inferred to be a pro-protein (pro-sigma K) with 20 extra amino acids at the N terminus. Using antibodies generated against pro-sigma K, we have detected pro-sigma K beginning at the third hour of sporulation and sigma K beginning about 1 hr later. Even when pro-sigma K is expressed artificially during growth and throughout sporulation, sigma K appears at the normal time and expression of a sigma K-controlled gene occurs normally. These results suggest that pro-sigma K is an inactive precursor that is proteolytically processed to active sigma K in a developmentally regulated fashion. Mutations that block forespore gene expression block accumulation of sigma K but not accumulation of pro-sigma K, suggesting that pro-sigma K processing is a regulatory device that couples the programs of gene expression in the two compartments of the sporangium. We propose that this regulatory device ensures completion of forespore morphogenesis prior to the synthesis in the mother-cell of spore coat proteins that will encase the forespore.

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