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Sci Rep. 2015 Dec 1;5:17524. doi: 10.1038/srep17524.

Adaptation to sustained nitrogen starvation by Escherichia coli requires the eukaryote-like serine/threonine kinase YeaG.

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MRC Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection, Imperial College London, UK.


The Escherichia coli eukaryote-like serine/threonine kinase, encoded by yeaG, is expressed in response to diverse stresses, including nitrogen (N) starvation. A role for yeaG in bacterial stress response is unknown. Here we reveal for the first time that wild-type E. coli displays metabolic heterogeneity following sustained periods of N starvation, with the metabolically active population displaying compromised viability. In contrast, such heterogeneity in metabolic activity is not observed in an E. coli ∆yeaG mutant, which continues to exist as a single and metabolically active population and thus displays an overall compromised ability to survive sustained periods of N starvation. The mechanism by which yeaG acts, involves the transcriptional repression of two toxin/antitoxin modules, mqsR/mqsA and dinJ/yafQ. This, consequently, has a positive effect on the expression of rpoS, the master regulator of the general bacterial stress response. Overall, results indicate that yeaG is required to fully execute the rpoS-dependent gene expression program to allow E. coli to adapt to sustained N starvation and unravels a novel facet to the regulatory basis that underpins adaptive response to N stress.

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