Alternate sigma factors have been implicated in the survival of mycobacteria in response to specific stresses. To characterize the role of SigM in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a sigM deletion mutant was generated by allelic exchange in the virulent CDC1551 strain. Comparing the wild-type and Delta sigM strains by complete genomic microarray, we observed a low level of baseline expression of sigM in wild-type M. tuberculosis and no significant differences in the gene expression patterns between these two strains. Alternatively, a SigM-overexpressing M. tuberculosis strain was constructed and microarray profiling revealed SigM-dependent expression of a relatively small group of genes, which included four esat-6 homologues: esxE, esxF, esxT, and esxU. An assessment of SigM-dependent promoters from the microarray analysis revealed a putative consensus sequence for M. tuberculosis SigM of -35 GGAAC and -10 CGTCR. In vitro expression studies showed that M. tuberculosis sigM transcripts accumulate slightly in stationary phase and following heat shock. To understand the role of SigM in pathogenesis, the M. tuberculosis sigM deletion strain was compared with the isogenic wild-type strain and the complemented mutant strain for survival in murine macrophages and in the mouse model. The mutant was found to have similar abilities to survive in both the resting and activated J774A.1 macrophages. Mouse organ bacterial burdens indicated that the mutant proliferated and persisted at the same level as that of the wild-type and complemented strains in lung and spleen tissues. In time-to-death experiments in the mouse model, the Delta sigM mutant exhibited lethality times comparable to those observed for the wild-type and complemented strains. These data indicate that M. tuberculosis SigM governs the expression of a small set of genes, including four esat-6 homologues, and that the loss of sigM does not confer a detectable virulence defect in the macrophages and mouse models of infection.