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Mol Microbiol. 2012 Apr;84(1):17-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.07965.x. Epub 2012 Jan 30.

A small RNA that regulates motility and biofilm formation in response to changes in nutrient availability in Escherichia coli.

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Cell Biology and Metabolism Program, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD, USA.


In bacteria, many small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) are induced in response to specific environmental signals or stresses and act by base-pairing with mRNA targets to affect protein translation or mRNA stability. In Escherichia coli, the gene for the sRNA IS061/IsrA, here renamed McaS, was predicted to reside in an intergenic region between abgR, encoding a transcription regulator and ydaL, encoding a small MutS-related protein. We show that McaS is a ∼95nt transcript whose expression increases over growth, peaking in early-to-mid stationary phase, or when glucose is limiting. McaS uses three discrete single-stranded regions to regulate mRNA targets involved in various aspects of biofilm formation. McaS represses csgD, the transcription regulator of curli biogenesis and activates flhD, the master transcription regulator of flagella synthesis leading to increased motility, a process not previously reported to be regulated by sRNAs. McaS also regulates pgaA, a porin required for the export of the polysaccharide poly β-1,6-N-acetyl-d-glucosamine. Consequently, high levels of McaS result in increased biofilm formation while a strain lacking mcaS shows reduced biofilm formation. Based on our observations, we propose that, in response to limited nutrient availability, increasing levels of McaS modulate steps in the progression to a sessile lifestyle.

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