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Mol Microbiol. 2012 Oct;86(1):140-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.08178.x. Epub 2012 Aug 6.

The small regulatory RNA FasX controls pilus expression and adherence in the human bacterial pathogen group A Streptococcus.

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Center for Molecular and Translational Human Infectious Diseases Research, The Methodist Hospital Research Institute, Houston, Texas, USA.


Bacterial pathogens use cell surface-associated adhesion molecules to promote host attachment and colonization, and the ability to modulate adhesion expression is critical to pathogen success. Here, we show that the human-specific pathogen the group A Streptococcus (GAS) uses a small regulatory RNA (sRNA) to regulate the expression of adhesive pili. The fibronectin/fibrinogen-binding/haemolytic-activity/streptokinase-regulator-X (FasX) sRNA, previously shown to positively regulate expression of the secreted virulence factor streptokinase (SKA), negatively regulates the production of pili on the GAS cell surface. FasX base pairs to the extreme 5' end of mRNA from the pilus biosynthesis operon, and this RNA:RNA interaction reduces the stability of the mRNA, while also inhibiting translation of at least the first gene in the pilus biosynthesis operon (cpa, which encodes a minor pilin protein). The negative regulation of pilus expression by FasX reduces the ability of GAS to adhere to human keratinocytes. Our findings cement FasX sRNA as an important regulator of virulence factor production in GAS and identify that FasX uses at least three distinct mechanisms, positive (ska mRNA) and negative (pilus operon mRNA) regulation of mRNA stability, and negative regulation of mRNA translation (cpa mRNA), to post-transcriptionally regulate target mRNAs during infection.

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