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Summary

Since their classification as members of the σ70 superfamily, Group IV alternative σ factors have been found to control gene expression in response to diverse environmental or stress signals. Activity of the Streptomyces coelicolor Group IV family member, σR (SigR), is increased by changes in the oxidation-reduction state of cytoplasmic disulphide bonds. Once released by its cognate anti-σ factor RsrA, σR activates expression of gene products that help cells reduce cytoplasmic disulphide bonds. In this issue of Molecular Microbiology, Kim and co-workers provide new insights into positive and negative control of σR activity. The authors show that a transcript derived from the inducible σR-dependent sigRrsrA p2 promoter operon encodes a σR protein of a higher molecular weight (termed σR′) than is found in uninduced cells. One major difference between σR′ and the smaller σR protein found in uninduced cells is the rapid proteolysis of σR′ by the ClpP1/P2 protease system. The genes for the ClpP1/ClpP2 protease subunits are themselves members of the σR regulon. The newly identified positive (σR′ synthesis) and negative control (selective σR′ turnover) aspects of this circuit are either found or predicted to exist in other related Group IV σ factor family members.