Chapter 4 : RNA Thermometers in Bacterial Pathogens

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Temperature is an environmental cue that affects essentially every cellular process. To cope with sudden temperature changes, all living cells closely survey their ambient temperature through numerous sensory mechanisms, which involve regulatory proteins, changes in membrane fluidity, and impacts on DNA topology and RNA structures ( ). Most of these mechanisms were initially discovered in studies of the heat shock response, which protects the cell from serious damage after a drastic shift to high temperatures. However, it is now established that subtle temperature changes already induce cellular responses. One process that involves reversible temperature changes is the entry and exit of mammalian pathogens into and from the host. A temperature of ∼37°C serves as a very good indicator to the bacterium that it is in a mammalian host. Various mechanisms regulating gene expression in response to host body temperature have been discovered, with some involving regulatory proteins and others utilizing sensory and regulatory RNAs. In this review, the main focus will be on RNA-mediated mechanisms; however, when the regulation involves a multicomponent regulatory network, protein-dependent regulatory events will be discussed.

Citation: Loh E, Righetti F, Eichner H, Twittenhoff C, Narberhaus F. 2019. RNA Thermometers in Bacterial Pathogens, p 57-73. In Storz G, Papenfort K (ed), Regulating with RNA in Bacteria and Archaea. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.RWR-0012-2017
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Figure 1

(A) RNATs are structural elements located within the 5′ UTR of protein-coding mRNAs and control its translation by operating as reversible molecular zippers that mask or unmask the RBS in response to temperature changes. (B) Three examples of RNAT secondary structures: FourU element of , ROSE element of , and the 8-bp tandem repeats of (blue and yellow lines indicate repeats). CDS, coding sequence.

Citation: Loh E, Righetti F, Eichner H, Twittenhoff C, Narberhaus F. 2019. RNA Thermometers in Bacterial Pathogens, p 57-73. In Storz G, Papenfort K (ed), Regulating with RNA in Bacteria and Archaea. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.RWR-0012-2017
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Figure 2

Virulence-associated RNATs in bacterial pathogens. For details, see text and Table 1 .

Citation: Loh E, Righetti F, Eichner H, Twittenhoff C, Narberhaus F. 2019. RNA Thermometers in Bacterial Pathogens, p 57-73. In Storz G, Papenfort K (ed), Regulating with RNA in Bacteria and Archaea. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.RWR-0012-2017
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Figure 3

Synthesis of the virulence regulator PrfA in is regulated by an RNAT in the 5′ UTR of and a -acting SAM riboswitch element. detects temperature increase to 37°C as the signal of host entry, and as a consequence, PrfA is synthesized. A prematurely terminated riboswitch produced in the presence of SAM inhibits the translation of via base pairing with its 5′ UTR.

Citation: Loh E, Righetti F, Eichner H, Twittenhoff C, Narberhaus F. 2019. RNA Thermometers in Bacterial Pathogens, p 57-73. In Storz G, Papenfort K (ed), Regulating with RNA in Bacteria and Archaea. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.RWR-0012-2017
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Figure 4

Environmental regulation of expression in species. Multiple stimuli are integrated and influence LcrF synthesis on the transcriptional and translational level. Temperature affects both transcription and translation of , via the histone-like protein YmoA and the -encoded FourU RNAT, respectively.

Citation: Loh E, Righetti F, Eichner H, Twittenhoff C, Narberhaus F. 2019. RNA Thermometers in Bacterial Pathogens, p 57-73. In Storz G, Papenfort K (ed), Regulating with RNA in Bacteria and Archaea. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.RWR-0012-2017
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Table 1

Summary of currently known virulence-associated RNATs in bacterial pathogens

Citation: Loh E, Righetti F, Eichner H, Twittenhoff C, Narberhaus F. 2019. RNA Thermometers in Bacterial Pathogens, p 57-73. In Storz G, Papenfort K (ed), Regulating with RNA in Bacteria and Archaea. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.RWR-0012-2017

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