Characterization of a stress-induced alternate sigma factor, RpoS, of Coxiella burnetii and its expression during the development cycle. Academic Article uri icon


  • Coxiella burnetii is an obligate intracellular bacterium that resides in an acidified phagolysosome and has a remarkable ability to persist in the extracellular environment. C. burnetii has evolved a developmental cycle that includes at least two morphologic forms, designated large cell variants (LCV) and small cell variants (SCV). Based on differential protein expression, distinct ultrastructures, and different metabolic activities, we speculated that LCV and SCV are similar to typical logarithmic- and stationary-phase growth stages. We hypothesized that the alternate sigma factor, RpoS, a global regulator of genes expressed under stationary-phase, starvation, and stress conditions in many bacteria, regulates differential expression in life cycle variants of C. burnetii. To test this hypothesis, we cloned and characterized the major sigma factor, encoded by an rpoD homologue, and the stress response sigma factor, encoded by an rpoS homologue. The rpoS gene was cloned by complementation of an Escherichia coli rpoS null mutant containing an RpoS-dependent lacZ fusion (osmY::lacZ). Expression of C. burnetii rpoS was regulated by growth phase in E. coli (induced upon entry into stationary phase). A glutathione S-transferase-RpoS fusion protein was used to develop polyclonal antiserum against C. burnetii RpoS. Western blot analysis detected abundant RpoS in LCV but not in SCV. These results suggest that LCV and SCV are not comparable to logarithmic and stationary phases of growth and may represent a novel adaptation for survival in both the phagolysosome and the extracellular environment.

published proceedings

  • Infect Immun

author list (cited authors)

  • Seshadri, R., & Samuel, J. E.

citation count

  • 31

complete list of authors

  • Seshadri, R||Samuel, JE

editor list (cited editors)

  • Finlay, B. B.

publication date

  • August 2001