Plastid gene expression is rather complex. Transcription is performed by three different RNA polymerases, two of them are nucleus-encoded, monomeric, of the phage-type (named RPOTp and RPOTmp) and one of them is plastid-encoded, multimeric, of the eubacterial-type (named PEP). The activity of the eubacterial-type RNA polymerase is regulated by up to six nucleus-encoded transcription initiation factors of the sigma-type. This complexity of the plastid transcriptional apparatus is not yet well understood and raises the question of whether it is subject to any regulation or just ensures constitutive transcription of the plastid genome. On the other hand, considerable advances have been made during the last years elucidating the role of sigma factors for specific promoter recognition and selected transcription of some plastid genes. Sigma-interacting proteins have been identified and phosphorylation-dependent functional changes of sigma factors have been revealed. The present review aims to summarize these recent advances and to convince the reader that plastid gene expression is regulated on the transcriptional level by sigma factor action.
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