The SigF regulon in Mycobacterium smegmatis reveals roles in adaptation to stationary phase, heat, and oxidative stress

Anja Hümpel, Susanne Gebhard, Gregory M. Cook, Michael Berney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


SigF is an alternative sigma factor that is highly conserved among species of the genus Mycobacterium. In this study we identified the SigF regulon in Mycobacterium smegmatis using whole-genome microarray and promoter consensus analyses. In total, 64 genes in exponential phase and 124 genes in stationary phase are SigF dependent (P < 0.01, >2-fold expression change). Our experimental data reveal the SigF-dependent promoter consensus GTTT-N (15-17)-GGGTA for M. smegmatis, and we propose 130 potential genes under direct control of SigF, of which more than 50% exhibited reduced expression in a ΔsigF strain. We previously reported an increased susceptibility of the ΔsigF strain to heat and oxidative stress, and our expression data indicate a molecular basis for these phenotypes. We observed SigF-dependent expression of several genes purportedly involved in oxidative stress defense, namely, a heme-containing catalase, a manganese-containing catalase, a superoxide dismutase, the starvation-induced DNA-protecting protein MsDps1, and the biosynthesis genes for the carotenoid isorenieratene. Our data suggest that SigF regulates the biosynthesis of the thermoprotectant trehalose, as well as an uptake system for osmoregulatory compounds, and this may explain the increased heat susceptibility of the ΔsigF strain. We identified the regulatory proteins SigH3, PhoP, WhiB1, and WhiB4 as possible genes under direct control of SigF and propose four novel anti-sigma factor antagonists that could be involved in the posttranslational regulation of SigF in M. smegmatis. This study emphasizes the importance of this sigma factor for stationary-phase adaptation and stress response in mycobacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2491-2502
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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