We have previously established a two-plasmid system in Escherichia coli for identification of promoters recognized by RNA polymerase containing a heterologous sigma factor. Attempts to optimize this system for identification of promoters recognized by RNA polymerase containing E. coli extracytoplasmic stress response sigma(E) failed owing to high toxicity of the expressed rpoE. A new system for identification of sigma(E)-cognate promoters was established, and verified using the two known sigma(E)-dependent promoters, rpoEp2 and degPp. Expression of the sigma(E)-encoding rpoE gene was under the control of the AraC-dependent P(BAD) promoter. A low level of arabinose induced a non-toxic, however, sufficient level of sigma(E) to interact with the core enzyme of RNA polymerase. Such an RNA polymerase holoenzyme recognized both known sigma(E)-dependent promoters, rpoEp2 and degPp, which were cloned in the compatible promoter probe plasmid, upstream of a promoterless lacZ alpha reporter gene. This new system has proved to be useful for identification of E. coli sigma(E)-cognate promoters. Moreover, the system could be used for identification of ECF sigma-cognate promoters from other bacteria.