Abstract: bldN is one of a set of genes required for the formation of specialized, spore-bearing aerial hyphae during differentiation in the mycelial bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor. Previous analysis (M. J. Bibb et al., J. Bacteriol. 182:4606-4616, 2000) showed that bldN encodes a member of the extracytoplasmic function subfamily of RNA polymerase sigma factors and that translation from the most strongly predicted start codon (GTG(1)) would give rise to a sigma factor having an unusual N-terminal extension of ca. 86 residues. Here, by using a combination of site-directed mutagenesis and immunoblot analysis, we provide evidence that all bldN translation arises from initiation at GTG(1) and that the primary translation product is a proprotein (pro-sigma(BldN)) that is proteolytically processed to a mature species (sigma(BldN)) by removal of most of the unusual N-terminal extension. A time course taken during differentiation of the wild type on solid medium showed early production of pro-sigma(BldN) and the subsequent appearance of mature sigma(BldN), which was concomitant with aerial mycelium formation and the disappearance of pro-sigma(BldN). Two genes encoding members of a family of metalloproteases that are involved in the regulated proteolytic processing of transcription factors in other organisms were identified in the S. coelicolor genome, but their disruption did not affect differentiation or pro-sigma(BldN) processing.