The activity of sigma E, an Escherichia coli heat-inducible sigma-factor, is modulated by expression of outer membrane proteins. Academic Article uri icon


  • sigma E and sigma 32 are two heat- and ethanol-inducible sigma-factors in Escherichia coli. The sigma 32 regulon is also induced by unfolded and misfolded proteins in the cytoplasm, and the function of many of the proteins in the sigma 32 regulon is to bind to cytoplasmic proteins and assist them in folding or unfolding. To further understand the function of the sigma E regulon, we searched for mutants that affected sigma E activity. Our results indicate that a signal generated by expression of outer membrane proteins modulates sigma E activity. Specifically, sigma E activity is induced by increased expression of OMPs and is reduced by decreased expression of OMPs. In addition, mutations that cause misfolded OMPs induce sigma E activity. This signal is generated after the fate of OMPs and periplasmic proteins diverge in the secretory pathway and is not the result of an accumulation of OMP precursors in the cytoplasm. Our results indicate that this effect of OMPs is specific to the sigma E regulon, because none of the above mutations affect sigma 32 activity. We propose that the sigma E regulon is involved in processes that occur in extracytoplasmic compartments and that these two heat-inducible regulons may have distinct but complementary roles of monitoring the state of proteins in the cytoplasm (sigma 32) and outer membrane (sigma E).

author list (cited authors)

  • Mecsas, J., Rouviere, P. E., Erickson, J. W., Donohue, T. J., & Gross, C. A.

citation count

  • 315

publication date

  • December 1993