When detected at single-base-pair resolution, the genome-wide location, occupancy level, and structural organization of DNA-binding proteins provide mechanistic insights into genome regulation. Here we use ChIP-exo to provide a near-base-pair resolution view of the epigenomic organization of the Escherichia coli transcription machinery and nucleoid structural proteins at the time when cells are growing exponentially and upon rapid reprogramming (acute heat shock). We examined the site specificity of three sigma factors (RpoD/σ70, RpoH/σ32, and RpoN/σ54), RNA polymerase (RNAP or RpoA, -B, -C), and two nucleoid proteins (Fis and IHF). We suggest that DNA shape at the flanks of cognate motifs helps drive site specificity. We find that although RNAP and sigma factors occupy active cognate promoters, RpoH and RpoN can occupy quiescent promoters without the presence of RNAP. Thus, promoter-bound sigma factors can be triggered to recruit RNAP by a mechanism that is distinct from an obligatory cycle of free sigma binding RNAP followed by promoter binding. These findings add new dimensions to how sigma factors achieve promoter specificity through DNA sequence and shape, and further define mechanistic steps in regulated genome-wide assembly of RNAP at promoters in E. coli.
© 2022 John et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.