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J Bacteriol. 2008 May;190(10):3712-20. doi: 10.1128/JB.01990-07. Epub 2008 Mar 21.

Genome-wide transcriptional responses of Escherichia coli K-12 to continuous osmotic and heat stresses.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Wright State University, Dayton, OH 45435, USA.


Osmotic stress is known to increase the thermotolerance and oxidative-stress resistance of bacteria by a mechanism that is not adequately understood. We probed the cross-regulation of continuous osmotic and heat stress responses by characterizing the effects of external osmolarity (0.3 M versus 0.0 M NaCl) and temperature (43 degrees C versus 30 degrees C) on the transcriptome of Escherichia coli K-12. Our most important discovery was that a number of genes in the SoxRS and OxyR oxidative-stress regulons were up-regulated by high osmolarity, high temperature, or a combination of both stresses. This result can explain the previously noted cross-protection of osmotic stress against oxidative and heat stresses. Most of the genes shown in previous studies to be induced during the early phase of adaptation to hyperosmotic shock were found to be also overexpressed under continuous osmotic stress. However, there was a poorer overlap between the heat shock genes that are induced transiently after high temperature shifts and the genes that we found to be chronically up-regulated at 43 degrees C. Supplementation of the high-osmolarity medium with the osmoprotectant glycine betaine, which reduces the cytoplasmic K(+) pool, did not lead to a universal reduction in the expression of osmotically induced genes. This finding does not support the hypothesis that K(+) is the central osmoregulatory signal in Enterobacteriaceae.

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