Open Access Research article

Transcriptional regulation of the operon encoding stress-responsive ECF sigma factor SigH and its anti-sigma factor RshA, and control of its regulatory network in Corynebacterium glutamicum

Tobias Busche1, Radoslav Šilar2, Martina Pičmanová2, Miroslav Pátek2 and Jörn Kalinowski1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centrum für Biotechnologie, Universität Bielefeld, 33594, Bielefeld, Germany

2 Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Vídeňská, 1083, Prague 4, Czech Republic

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:445  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-445

Published: 3 September 2012



The expression of genes in Corynebacterium glutamicum, a Gram-positive non-pathogenic bacterium used mainly for the industrial production of amino acids, is regulated by seven different sigma factors of RNA polymerase, including the stress-responsive ECF-sigma factor SigH. The sigH gene is located in a gene cluster together with the rshA gene, putatively encoding an anti-sigma factor. The aim of this study was to analyze the transcriptional regulation of the sigH and rshA gene cluster and the effects of RshA on the SigH regulon, in order to refine the model describing the role of SigH and RshA during stress response.


Transcription analyses revealed that the sigH gene and rshA gene are cotranscribed from four sigH housekeeping promoters in C. glutamicum. In addition, a SigH-controlled rshA promoter was found to only drive the transcription of the rshA gene. To test the role of the putative anti-sigma factor gene rshA under normal growth conditions, a C. glutamicum rshA deletion strain was constructed and used for genome-wide transcription profiling with DNA microarrays. In total, 83 genes organized in 61 putative transcriptional units, including those previously detected using sigH mutant strains, exhibited increased transcript levels in the rshA deletion mutant compared to its parental strain. The genes encoding proteins related to disulphide stress response, heat stress proteins, components of the SOS-response to DNA damage and proteasome components were the most markedly upregulated gene groups. Altogether six SigH-dependent promoters upstream of the identified genes were determined by primer extension and a refined consensus promoter consisting of 45 original promoter sequences was constructed.


The rshA gene codes for an anti-sigma factor controlling the function of the stress-responsive sigma factor SigH in C. glutamicum. Transcription of rshA from a SigH-dependent promoter may serve to quickly shutdown the SigH-dependent stress response after the cells have overcome the stress condition. Here we propose a model of the regulation of oxidative and heat stress response including redox homeostasis by SigH, RshA and the thioredoxin system.

Corynebacterium glutamicum; ECF sigma factor; Anti-sigma factor; Promoter; Microarray analysis