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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Mar 14;92(6):2003-7.

A small RNA acts as an antisilencer of the H-NS-silenced rcsA gene of Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-4255.


The regulation of capsular polysaccharide synthesis in Escherichia coli K-12 depends on the level of an unstable positive regulator, RcsA. The amount of RcsA protein is limited both by its rapid degradation by Lon, an ATP-dependent protease, and by its low level of synthesis. We have found that the low level of expression from the rcsA promoter is due to transcriptional silencing by the histone-like protein H-NS; this silencing is sensitive to both sequence and context in a region upstream of the -35 region of the promoter. A small (85-nt) RNA, DsrA, when overproduced, activates transcription of rcsA::lacZ fusions by counteracting H-NS silencing. DsrA RNA does not show any extended homology with the rcsA promoter or other sequenced regions of E. coli. Since the stimulation of rcsA transcription by this small RNA does not depend on any sequences from within the rcsA transcript, DsrA acts, either directly or indirectly, on rcsA transcription initiation.

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