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Mol Microbiol. 2009 Oct;74(1):71-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2009.06851.x. Epub 2009 Aug 24.

Rcs signalling-activated transcription of rcsA induces strong anti-sense transcription of upstream fliPQR flagellar genes from a weak intergenic promoter: regulatory roles for the anti-sense transcript in virulence and motility.

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Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


In Salmonella enterica, an activated Rcs signalling system inhibits initiation of transcription of the flhD master operon. Under these conditions, where motility is shut down, microarray experiments showed an increased RNA signal for three flagellar genes -fliPQR- located upstream of rcsA. We show here that it is the anti-sense (AS) strand of these genes that is transcribed, originating at a weak promoter in the intergenic region between fliR and rcsA. RcsA is an auxiliary regulator for the Rcs system, whose transcription is dependent on the response regulator RcsB. Rcs-activated rightward transcription, but not translation, of rcsA is required for stimulation of leftward AS transcription. Our results implicate a combined action of RcsB and rcsA transcription in activating the AS promoter, likely by modulating DNA superhelicity in the intergenic region. We show that the AS transcript regulates many genes in the Rcs regulon, including SPI-1 and SPI-2 virulence and stress-response genes. In the wild-type strain the AS transcript is present in low amounts, independent of Rcs signalling. Here, AS transcription modulates complementary sense RNA levels and impacts swarming motility. It appears that the flagellar AS transcript has been co-opted by the Rcs system to regulate virulence.

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