The stationary-phase sigma factor sigma S (RpoS) is required for a sustained acid tolerance response in virulent Salmonella typhimurium

Mol Microbiol. 1995 Jul;17(1):155-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1995.mmi_17010155.x.


The acid tolerance response (ATR) of log-phase Salmonella typhimurium is induced by acid exposures below pH 4.5 and will protect cells against more extreme acid. Two systems are evident: a transiently induced system dependent on the iron regulator Fur that provides a moderate degree of acid tolerance and a more effective sustained ATR that requires the alternate sigma factor sigma S encoded by rpoS. Differences between the acid responses of virulent S. typhimurium and the attenuated laboratory strain LT2 were attributed to disparate levels of RpoS caused by different translational starts. The sustained ATR includes seven newly identified acid shock proteins (ASPs) that are dependent upon sigma S for their synthesis. It is predicted that one or more of these ASPs is essential for the sustained system. The sustained ATR also provided cross-protection to a variety of other environmental stresses (heat, H2O2 and osmolarity); however, adaptation to the other stresses did not provide significant acid tolerance. Therefore, in addition to starvation, acid shock serves as an important signal for inducing general stress resistance. Consistent with this model, sigma S proved to be induced by acid shock. Our results also revealed a connection between the transient and sustained ATR systems. Mutations in the regulator atbR are known to cause the overproduction of ten proteins, of which one or more can suppress the acid tolerance defect of an rpoS mutant. One member of the AtbR regulon, designated atrB, was found to be co-regulated by sigma S and AtbR. Both regulators had a negative effect on atrB expression. The results suggest AtrB serves as a link between the sustained and transient ATR systems. When sigma S concentrations are low, a compensatory increase in AtrB is required to engage the transiently induced, RpoS-independent system of acid tolerance. Results also suggest different acid-sensitive targets occur in log-phase versus stationary-phase cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acids / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology*
  • Codon, Initiator / genetics
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Genes, Bacterial / physiology
  • Genes, Regulator / physiology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Osmotic Pressure
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Salmonella typhimurium / drug effects*
  • Salmonella typhimurium / pathogenicity
  • Salmonella typhimurium / physiology
  • Sigma Factor / genetics
  • Sigma Factor / physiology*


  • Acids
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Codon, Initiator
  • Sigma Factor
  • sigma factor KatF protein, Bacteria