The Bacillus subtllis stressosome is a 1.8 MDa complex that is the focal point for activating the bacterium's general response to physical stress. In vitro studies demonstrated that the stressosome's core element can be formed from one or more of a family of paralogous proteins (RsbRA, -RB, -RC and -RD) onto which the system's activator protein (RsbT) and its principal inhibitor (RsbS) are bound. The RsbR components of the stressosome are envisioned to be the initial receptors of stress signalling with the stressosome structure itself serving as a device to integrate multiple stress signals for a coordinated response. In the current work, we examine several of the in vivo characteristics of the RsbR family members, including their expression and ability to form stressosomes to regulate σB. Translational fusions of lacZ to each rsbR paralogue revealed that rsbRA, -RB and -RC are expressed at similar levels, which remain relatively constant during growth, ethanol stress and entry into stationary phase. rsbRD, in contrast, is expressed at a level that is only slightly above background during growth, but is induced to 30% of the rsbRA expression level following ethanol stress. Velocity sedimentation analyses of B. subtllis extracts from strains expressing single rsbR paralogues demonstrated that each incorporates RsbS into fast-sedimenting complexes. However, consistent with rsbRD's lower expression, the RsbRD-dependent RsbS complexes were present at only 20 % of the level of the complexes seen in a wild-type strain. The lower stressosome level in the RsbRD strain is still able to hold RsbT's activity in check, implying that the RsbR/S component of stressosomes is normally in excess for the control of RsbT. Consistent with such a notion, reporter gene and Western blot assays demonstrate that although RsbT is synthesized at the same rate as RsbRA and RsbS, RsbT's ultimate level in growing B. subtllis is only 10 % that of RsbRA. Apparently, RsbT's inherent structure and/or its passage between the stressosome and its activation target compromises its persistence.
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