Hfq and three Hfq-dependent small regulatory RNAs—MgrR, RyhB and McaS—coregulate the locus of enterocyte effacement in enteropathogenic Escherichia coli

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Abstract: Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is a significant cause of infantile diarrhea and death in developing countries. The pathogenicity island locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) is essential for EPEC to cause diarrhea. Besides EPEC, the LEE is also present in other gastrointestinal pathogens, most notably enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). Whereas transcriptional control of the LEE has been meticulously examined, posttranscriptional regulation, including the role of Hfq-dependent small RNAs, remains undercharacterized. However, the past few years have witnessed a surge in the identification of riboregulators of the LEE in EHEC. Contrastingly, the posttranscriptional regulatory landscape of EPEC remains cryptic. Here we demonstrate that the RNA-chaperone Hfq represses the LEE of EPEC by targeting the 5 similar to untranslated leader region of grlR in the grlRA mRNA. Three conserved small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs)-MgrR, RyhB and McaS-are involved in the Hfq-dependent regulation of grlRA. MgrR and RyhB exert their effects by directly base-pairing to the 5 similar to region of grlR. Whereas MgrR selectively represses grlR but activates grlA, RyhB represses gene expression from the entire grlRA transcript. Meanwhile, McaS appears to target the grlRA mRNA indirectly. Thus, our results provide the first definitive evidence that implicates multiple sRNAs in regulating the LEE and the resulting virulence of EPEC.

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