Clostridium thermocellum is a Gram-positive, anaerobic, thermophilic, cellulolytic bacterium, capable of converting cellulosic substrates directly into soluble sugars
and fermentation products, for example, ethanol and molecular hydrogen. These qualities render C. thermocellum potentially useful for producing renewable forms of energy from plant-derived biomass, and hence interest in this bacterium has increased tremendously in recent years. Clostridium thermocellum has become a model organism for cellulose degradation by virtue of its production of the multienzyme cellulosome complex for this purpose (Lamed et al., 1983; reviewed by Bayer et al., 2004). The key feature of the cellulosome is the nonhydrolytic ‘scaffoldin’ subunit that integrates the various catalytic subunits into the complex through interactions PF-02341066 nmr between its repetitive ‘cohesin’ modules and a complementary ‘dockerin’ module borne by each of the catalytic subunits. The scaffoldin subunit
can integrate a consortium of nine different catalytic subunits per complex, but the genome encodes for >70 different dockerin-containing components, thereby producing a heterogeneous mixture of individual complexes that differ in their enzyme composition. The attachment of the cellulosome to its substrate Selleckchem LY2109761 is mediated by a carbohydrate-binding module (CBM) that comprises part of the scaffoldin subunit. In previous studies, the expression profiles of some C. thermocellum genes that encode cellulosomal enzymes and structural proteins were analyzed. It was observed that up- or downregulation of these genes was strongly dependent on the carbon sources mafosfamide present in the growth media (Dror et al., 2003a, b, 2005; Stevenson & Weimer, 2005; Gold & Martin, 2007; Raman et al., 2009). Moreover, the transcriptional start sites of some of these genes have been mapped, and putative promoter sequences were analyzed (Dror et al., 2003a, 2005). To date,
however, the mechanism(s) by which C. thermocellum senses its environment and controls the expression of the abovementioned genes is still unknown. One of the main regulatory mechanisms in bacteria is based on so-called alternative RNA polymerase (RNAP) σ factors (Lonetto et al., 1992; Helmann, 2002). In general, alternative σ factors control specialized regulons active during growth transitions, in the stationary phase, in response to stress conditions or during morphological differentiation (Helmann, 2002). Among the alternative σ factors, there is a large subfamily of the extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factors (Lonetto et al., 1994; Staroñet al., 2009), of which many bacteria contain multiple copies (Helmann, 2002; Paget & Helmann, 2003). The roles and mechanisms of the regulation of these various ECF σ factors are largely unknown.