RNAs, such as mRNA, rRNA and tRNA, are essential macromolecules for cell survival and maintenance. Any perturbation of these molecules, such as by degradation or mutation, can be toxic to cells and may occasionally induce cell death. Therefore, cells have mechanisms known as quality control systems to eliminate abnormal RNAs. Although tRNA is a stable molecule, the anticodon loop is quite susceptible to tRNA-targeting RNases such as colicin E5 and colicin D. However, the mechanism underlying cellular reaction to tRNA cleavage remains unclear. It had long been believed that tRNA cleavage by colicins E5 and D promptly induces cell death because colony formation of the sensitive cells is severely reduced; this indicates that cells do not resist the tRNA cleavage. Here, we show that Escherichia coli cells enter a bacteriostatic state against the tRNA cleavage of colicins D and E5. The bacteriostasis requires small protein B (SmpB) and transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA), which are known to mediate trans-translation. Furthermore, another type of colicin, colicin E3 cleaving rRNA, immediately reduces the viability of sensitive cells. Moreover, nascent peptide degradation has an additive effect on bacteriostasis. Considering the recent observation that tRNA cleavage may be used as a means of cell-to-cell communication, tRNA cleavage could be used by bacteria not only to dominate other bacteria living in the same niche, but also to regulate growth of their own or other cells.
The NsrR protein of Escherichia coli is a transcriptional repressor that contains an [Fe–S] cluster that is the binding site for nitric oxide (NO). Reaction of NsrR with NO leads to de-repression of its target genes, which include those encoding an NO scavenging flavohaemoglobin and the RIC (repair of iron centres) protein involved in the repair of NO-damaged [Fe–S] clusters. The nsrR gene is promoter proximal in a transcription unit with rnr, encoding the cold shock-inducible RNase R. Here, we show that nsrR is expressed from a strong promoter, but that its translation is extremely inefficient, leading to a low cellular NsrR concentration. Conversion of the nsrR start codon from the wild-type GUG to AUG increased the efficiency of translation (which, nevertheless, remained extremely low) and had measurable effects on the expression of some NsrR-regulated genes. We conclude that NsrR abundance in the cell is such that promoters with low-affinity NsrR binding sites may partially escape NsrR-mediated repression. Expression profiling confirmed that genes regulated by NsrR (whether directly or indirectly) tend to express lower mRNA levels when the nsrR start codon is AUG than when it is GUG. Transcriptomics data implicated the pyruvate oxidase gene poxB as a novel NsrR target, which we confirmed and showed to be due to read-through transcription from the upstream hcp-hcr genes. We also present evidence to suggest that NsrR is a regulator of the sufABCDSE genes, which encode the components of an [Fe–S] cluster biogenesis and repair system.
Various phenotypes ranging from biofilm formation to pigment production have been shown to be regulated by quorum sensing (QS) in many bacteria. However, studies of the regulation of pigments produced by marine bacteria in saline conditions and of biofilm-associated phenotypes are scarcer. This study focuses on the demonstration of the existence of a QS communication system involving N-acylhomoserine lactones (AHLs) in the Mediterranean Sea strain Pseudoalteromonas ulvae TC14. We have investigated whether TC14 produces the violacein pigment, and whether intrinsic or exogenous AHLs could influence its production and modulate biofilm-associated phenotypes. Here, we demonstrate that the purple pigment produced by TC14 is violacein. The study shows that in planktonic conditions, TC14 produces more pigment in the medium in which it grows less. Using different approaches, the results also show that TC14 does not produce intrinsic AHLs in our conditions. When exogenous AHLs are added in planktonic conditions, the production of violacein is upregulated by C6-, C12-, 3-oxo-C8 and 3-oxo-C12-HSLs (homoserine lactones), and downregulated by 3-oxo-C6-HSL. In sessile conditions, 3-oxo-C8-HSL upregulates the production of violacein. The study of the biofilm-associated phenotypes shows that oxo-derived-HSLs decrease adhesion, swimming and biofilm formation. While 3-oxo-C8 and 3-oxo-C12-HSLs decrease both swimming and adhesion, 3-oxo-C6-HSLs decrease not only violacein production in planktonic conditions but also swimming, adhesion and more subtly biofilm formation. Therefore, TC14 may possess a functional LuxR-type QS receptor capable of sensing extrinsic AHLs, which controls violacein production, motility, adhesion and biofilm formation.