Alternative RNA polymerase sigma factors are a common means of coordinating gene regulation in bacteria. Using PCR amplification with degenerate primers, we identified and cloned a sigma factor gene, sigF, from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The deduced protein encoded by sigF shows significant similarity to SigF sporulation sigma factors from Streptomyces coelicolor and Bacillus subtilis and to SigB, a stress-response sigma factor, from B. subtilis. Southern blot surveys with a sigF-specific probe identified cross-hybridizing bands in other slow-growing mycobacteria, Mycobacterium bovis bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) and Mycobacterium avium, but not in the rapid-growers Mycobacterium smegmatis or Mycobacterium abscessus. RNase protection assays revealed that M. tuberculosis sigF mRNA is not present during exponential-phase growth in M. bovis BCG cultures but is strongly induced during stationary phase, nitrogen depletion, and cold shock. Weak expression of M. tuberculosis sigF was also detected during late-exponential phase, oxidative stress, anaerobiasis, and alcohol shock. The specific expression of M. tuberculosis sigF during stress or stationary phase suggests that it may play a role in the ability of tubercle bacilli to adapt to host defenses and persist during human infection.