The σ subunit of bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) confers on the enzyme the ability to initiate promoter-specific transcription. Although σ factors are generally classified as initiation factors, σ can also remain associated with, and modulate the behavior of, RNAP during elongation. Here we establish that the primary σ factor in Escherichia coli, σ70, can function as an elongation factor in vivo by loading directly onto the transcription elongation complex (TEC) in trans. We demonstrate that σ70 can bind in trans to TECs that emanate from either a σ70-dependent promoter or a promoter that is controlled by an alternative σ factor. We further demonstrate that binding of σ70 to the TEC in trans can have a particularly large impact on the dynamics of transcription elongation during stationary phase. Our findings establish a mechanism whereby the primary σ factor can exert direct effects on the composition of the entire transcriptome, not just that portion that is produced under the control of σ70-dependent promoters.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)