Mutation of the principal σ factor causes loss of virulence in a strain of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex

Desmond M. Collins, R. Pamela Kawakami, Geoffrey W. De Lisle, Lisa Pascopella, Barry R. Bloom, William R. Jacobs

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52 Scopus citations


Tuberculosis continues to be responsible for the deaths of millions of people, yet the virulence factors of the causative pathogens remain unknown. Genetic complementation experiments with strains of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex have identified a gene from a virulent strain that restores virulence to an attenuated strain. The gene, designated rpoV, has a high degree of homology with principal transcription or σ factors from other bacteria, particularly Mycobacterium smegmatis and Streptomyces griseus. The homologous rpoV gene of the attenuated strain has a point mutation causing an arginine → histidine change in a domain known to interact with promoters. To our knowledge, association of loss of bacterial virulence with a mutation in the principal σ factor has not been previously reported. The results indicate either that tuberculosis organisms have an alternative principal σ factor that promotes virulence genes or, more probably, that this particular mutant principal σ factor is unable to promote expression of one or more genes required for virulence. Study of genes and proteins differentially regulated by the mutant transcription factor should facilitate identification of further virulence factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8036-8040
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Aug 15 1995


  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • RNA polymerase
  • transcription factor
  • σ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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