Promoter selectivity control of Escherichia coli RNA polymerase by ionic strength: differential recognition of osmoregulated promoters by E sigma D and E sigma S holoenzymes

Mol Microbiol. 1995 May;16(4):649-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1995.tb02427.x.


Transcription in vitro of two osmoregulated promoters, for the Escherichia coli osmB and osmY genes, was analysed using two species of RNA polymerase holoenzyme reconstituted from purified core enzyme and either sigma D (sigma 70, the major sigma in exponentially growing cells) or sigma S (sigma 38, the principal sigma at stationary growth phase). Under conditions of low ionic strength, the osmB and osmY promoters were transcribed by both E sigma D and E sigma S. Addition of up to 400 mM potassium glutamate (K glutamate), mimicking the intracellular ionic conditions under hyperosmotic stress, specifically enhanced transcription at these promoters by E sigma S but inhibited that by E sigma D. At similar high concentrations of potassium chloride (KCl), however, initiation at both these promoters was virtually undetectable. These data suggest that the RNA polymerase, E sigma S, itself can sense osmotic stress by responding to changes in intracellular K glutamate concentrations and altering its promoter selectivity in order to recognize certain osmoregulated promoters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / genetics


  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases