Escherichia coli and related enteric bacteria can survive under extreme acid stress condition at least for several hours. RpoS is a key factor for acid stress management in many enterobacteria. Although three rpoS-activating sRNAs, DsrA, RprA, and ArcZ, have been identified in E. coli, it remains unclear how these small RNA molecules participate in pathways leading to acid resistance (AR). Here, we showed that overexpression of ArcZ, DsrA, or RprA enhances AR in a RpoS-dependent manner. Mutant strains with deletion of any of three sRNA genes showed lowered AR, and deleting all three sRNA genes led to more severe defects in protecting against acid stress. Overexpression of any of the three sRNAs fully rescued the acid tolerance defects of the mutant strain lacking all three genes, suggesting that all three sRNAs perform the same function in activating RpoS required for AR. Notably, acid stress led to the induction of DsrA and RprA but not ArcZ.
ssrS-encoded 6S RNA is an abundant noncoding RNA that binds ?(70)-RNA polymerase and regulates expression at a subset of promoters in Escherichia coli. It is transcribed from two tandem promoters, ssrS P1 and ssrS P2. Regulation of transcription from two ssrS promoters in 6S RNA biogenesis was examined. Both P1 and P2 were growth phase-dependently regulated. Depletion of 6S RNA had no effect on growth-phase-dependent transcription from either promoter, whereas overexpression of 6S RNA increased P1 transcription and decreased P2 transcription, suggesting that transcription from P1 and P2 is subject to feedback activation and feedback inhibition, respectively. This feedback regulation disappeared in ?fis strains, supporting involvement of Fis in this process. The differential feedback regulation may provide a means for maintaining appropriate cellular concentrations of 6S RNA.
An artificial small RNA (afsRNA) scaffold was designed from an Escherichia coli sRNA, SibC. Using the lacZ reporter system, the gene silencing effects of afsRNAs were examined to explore the sRNA-mediated gene-silencing mechanisms in E. coli. Substitution of the original target recognition sequence with a new sequence recognizing lacZ mRNA led to effective reduction of lacZ gene expression. Single-strandedness of the target recognition sequences in the scaffold was essential for effective gene silencing. The target recognition sequence was shortened to 10 nt without significant loss of gene silencing, although this minimal length was limited to a specific target mRNA sequence. In cases where afsRNAs had mismatched (forming internal loops) or unmatched (forming bulges) regions in the middle of the target recognition sequence, internal loop-forming afsRNAs were more effective in gene silencing than those that formed bulges. Unexpectedly, gene silencing by afsRNA was not decreased but increased on hfq disruption in E. coli, particularly when interactions between afsRNA and mRNA were weak, suggesting that Hfq is possibly involved in destabilization of the RNA-RNA duplex, rather than enhancement of base pairing.
Five Sib antitoxin RNAs, members of a family of cis-encoded small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) in Escherichia coli, repress their target mRNAs, which encode Ibs toxins. This target repression occurs only between cognate sRNA-mRNA pairs with an exception of ibsA. We performed co-transformation assays to assess the ability of SibC derivatives to repress ibsC expression, thereby revealing the regions of SibC that are essential for ibsC mRNA recognition. SibC has two target recognition domains, TRD1 and TRD2, which function independently. The target site for TRD1 is located within the ORF of ibsC, whereas the target site for TRD2 is located in the translational initiation region. The TRD1 sequence is sufficient to repress ibsC expression. In contrast, TRD2 requires a specific structure in addition to the recognition sequence. An in vitro structural probing analysis showed that the initial interactions at these two recognition sites allowed base-pairing to progress into the flanking sequences. Displacement of the TRD1 and TRD2 domains of SibC by the corresponding domains of SibD changed the target specificity of SibC from ibsC to ibsD, suggesting that these two elements modulate the cognate target recognition of each Sib RNA by discriminating among non-cognate ibs mRNAs.
The yeast three-hybrid system (Y3H), a powerful method for identifying RNA-binding proteins, still suffers from many false positives, due mostly to RNA-independent interactions. In this study, we attempted to efficiently identify false positives by introducing a tetracycline operator (tetO) motif into the RPR1 promoter of an RNA hybrid expression vector. We successfully developed a tight tetracycline-regulatable RPR1 promoter variant containing a single tetO motif between the transcription start site and the A-box sequence of the RPR1 promoter. Expression from this tetracycline-regulatable RPR1 promoter in the presence of tetracycline-response transcription activator (tTA) was positively controlled by doxycycline (Dox), a derivative of tetracycline. This on-off control runs opposite to the general knowledge that Dox negatively regulates tTA. This positively controlled RPR1 promoter system can therefore efficiently eliminate RNA-independent false positives commonly observed in the Y3H system by directly monitoring RNA hybrid expression.
Cnu (an OriC-binding nucleoid protein) associates with H-NS. A variant of Cnu was identified as a key factor for filamentous growth of a wild-type Escherichia coli strain at 37°C. This variant (CnuK9E) bears a substitution of a lysine to glutamic acid, causing a charge reversal in the first helix. The temperature-dependent filamentous growth of E. coli bearing CnuK9E could be reversed by either lowering the temperature to 25°C or lowering the CnuK9E concentration in the cell. Gene expression analysis suggested that downregulation of dicA by CnuK9E causes a burst of dicB transcription, which, in turn, elicits filamentous growth. In vivo assays indicated that DicA transcriptionally activates its own gene, by binding to its operator in a temperature-dependent manner. The antagonizing effect of CnuK9E with H-NS on DNA-binding activity of DicA was stronger at 37°C, presumably due to the lower operator binding of DicA at 37°C. These data suggest that the temperature-dependent negative effect of CnuK9E on DicA binding plays a major role in filamentous growth. The C-terminus of DicA shows significant amino acid sequence similarity to the DNA-binding domains of RovA and SlyA, regulators of pathogenic genes in Yersinia and Salmonella, respectively, which also show better DNA-binding activity at 25°C.
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