The Bacillus subtilis clpX and clpP genes are the sites of pleiotropic mutations that adversely affect growth on a variety of media and impair developmental processes such as sporulation and competence development. ClpX is necessary for the post-exponential induction of genes that require the sigmaH form of RNA polymerase for transcription. Both ClpX and ClpP are required for the activation of sigmaA-dependent transcription of the srf operon that encodes surfactin synthetase and the regulatory peptide ComS, required for the development of genetic competence. Transcription of srf is activated by the two-component regulatory system ComPA in response to the peptide pheromone, ComX, which mediates cell density-dependent control. A clpX mutant, although able to produce ComX, is unable to respond to the pheromone. A mutant allele of comP, encoding a product whose activity is independent of ComX, is not able to suppress clpX with respect to srf expression, suggesting that ClpXP acts at the level of ComA-dependent activation of srf transcription initiation. Suppressor mutations of clpX (cxs-1 and cxs-2) were isolated in screens for pseudorevertants exhibiting high levels of srf expression and sigmaH-dependent transcription respectively. One mutation, cxs-1, suppressed a clpP null mutation with respect to srf transcription, but did not overcome the block conferred by clpP on competence development and sporulation. Both cxs-1 and cxs-2 mutations map to the region of the rpoA gene encoding the RNA polymerase alpha C-terminal domain (alphaCTD). The reconstruction of the cxs-1 and cxs-2 alleles of rpoA confirmed that these mutations confer the suppressor phenotype. These findings provide further support for the hypothesis that ClpX and ClpP might be intimately associated with transcription initiation in B. subtilis.