YlaD, a membrane-anchored anti-sigma (σ) factor of Bacillus subtilis, contains a HX3CXXC motif that functions as a redox-sensing domain and belongs to one of the zinc (Zn)-co-ordinated anti-σ factor families. Despite previously showing that the YlaC transcription is controlled by YlaD, experimental evidence of how the YlaC–YlaD interaction is affected by active cysteines and/or metal ions is lacking. Here, we showed that the Pyla promoter is autoregulated solely by YlaC. Moreover, reduced YlaD contained Zn and iron, while oxidized YlaD did not. Cysteine substitution in YlaD led to changes in its secondary structure; Cys3 had important structural functions in YlaD, and its mutation caused dissociation from YlaC, indicating the essential requirement of a HX3CXXC motif for regulating interactions of YlaC with YlaD. Analyses of the far-UV CD spectrum and metal content revealed that the addition of Mn ions to Zn–YlaD changed its secondary structure and that iron was substituted for manganese (Mn). The ylaC gene expression using βGlu activity from Pyla:gusA was observed at the late-exponential and early-stationary phase, and the ylaC-overexpressing mutant constitutively expressed gene transcripts of clpP and sigH, an important alternative σ factor regulated by ClpXP. Collectively, our data demonstrated that YlaD senses redox changes and elicits increase in Mn ion concentrations and that, in turn, YlaD-mediated transcriptional activity of YlaC regulates sporulation initiation under oxidative stress and Mn-substituted conditions by regulating clpP gene transcripts. This is the first report of the involvement of oxidative stress-responsive B. subtilis extracytoplasmic function σ factors during sporulation via a Mn-dependent redox-sensing molecular switch.

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