Functional characterization of the small antisense RNA MicA in Escherichia coli

by Udekwu, Klas Ifeanyi

Abstract (Summary)
The Escherichia coli small RNA (sRNA) MicA was identified recently in a genomewide search for sRNAs. It is encoded between the genes gshA and luxS in E. coli and its close relatives. The function of sRNAs in bacteria is generally believed to be in maintenance of homeostasis via stress-induced modulation of gene expression. Our studies on MicA have been aimed at attributing function(s) to this molecule.We carried out high throughput assays aimed at identifying genes that are differentially regulated upon knocking out or overexpressing MicA. Among the protein candidates identified was the outer membrane protein, OmpA. Subsequent analysis allowed us to show this regulation to be antisense in nature with MicA binding within the translation initiation region of ompA mRNA. Furthermore, blocking the ribosome from loading caused a translational decoupling that instigates degradation of the mRNA. The regulation was apparent in early stationary phase and seen to be dependent on the RNA chaperone Hfq. We went on to characterize the regulation of MicA, looking at its own transcription. Testing various stress conditions, we were able to identify putative promoter elements that we confirmed using transcriptional fusions. The results showed MicA to be dependent on the extracytoplasmic function ECF sigma E (?E) and could not detect MicA in mutants deleted for this factor.Lastly, we identified an additional target for MicA being the adjacently encoded luxS mRNA. The LuxS protein is essential for the synthesis of the quorum sensing AI-2 molecule. Transcription of the luxS mRNA is commences within the gshA gene, on the other side of MicA coding region. We were able to show that MicA interacts with luxS mRNA and is recognized by RNase III which processes this complex leading to a shorter luxS mRNA isoform. The significance of this processing event is as yet undetermined. Our data elucidated a new promoter driving transcription of luxS, and we demonstrated this promoter to be stationary phase responsive.In summary, the work presented here characterizes the sRNA MicA as a dual regulatory sRNA molecule, moonlighting between its cis-encoded target and its trans-encoded target. .
Bibliographical Information:


School:Uppsala universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:MEDICINE; Microbiology, immunology, infectious diseases; Microbiology; small RNA; antisense; outer membrane; Hfq-dependence; RNase III; LuxS; Quorum sensing; mikrobiologi; Microbiology


Date of Publication:01/01/2007

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