The alternative sigma factor PvdS is required by Pseudomonas aeruginosa for initiation of transcription from pyoverdine (pvd) promoters. Two divergent PvdS-dependent promoters (pvdE and pvdF) were characterized by deletion analysis, and the minimal promoter region for each included a sequence element, the iron starvation (IS) box, that is present in other pvd promoters. Site-directed mutagenesis showed that the IS box elements were essential for promoter activity in vivo. Band shift assays and in vitro transcription experiments showed that a complex of PvdS and core RNA polymerase required the presence of an IS box in order to bind to and initiate transcription from pvd promoters. These results indicate that IS box elements participate in sequence-specific recognition by PvdS to enable initiation of transcription from pvd promoters and are likely to represent a - 35 sequence element for this sigma factor.