We have used lipiarmycin, a specific inhibitor of initiation of transcription, to study the role of host RNA polymerase in the transcription programs of various phages of Bacillus subtilis. Unlike rifampin, lipiarmycin preferentially inhibits transcription dependent on the sigma subunit of RNA polymerase because it inactivates holoenzyme at a much greater rate than it does core enzyme. With phage SP01, addition of lipiarmycin at a middle-to-late time of infection did not inhibit phage production even though phage production was sensitive to addition of rifampin at that time. This result is consistent with the notion that unmodified host RNA polymerase holoenzyme becomes dispensable after transcription of early classes of SP01 genes, even though host core enzyme is required for synthesis of all classes of phage RNA. SP01-modified forms of RNA polymerase, which lack sigma subunit but contain phage-coded polypeptides and are able to transcribe middle and late genes, were resistant to lipiarmycin in vitro. For phage phi 105, phage development was sensitive to both lipiarmycin and rifampin in wild-type cells and resistant to both drugs in resistant mutant cells, leading to the conclusion that the activity of host holoenzyme was required for phage RNA synthesis. Growth of phage PBS2, which was resistant to rifampin, was sensitive to the addition of lipiarmycin at early times of infection of a wild-type host strain. In a lipiarmycin-resistant mutant host, PBS2 growth was resistant to lipiarmycin. This result suggests that host holoenzyme plays a previously unanticipated role in transcription of PBS2 genes.
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