An Unconventional RNA-Based Thermosensor Within The 5’ UTR of Staphylococcus Aureus Cida

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© 2019 Hussein et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Staphylococcus aureus is a Gram-positive bacterial pathogen of global concern and a leading cause of bacterial infections worldwide. Asymptomatic carriage of S. aureus on the skin and in the anterior nares is common and recognized as a predisposing factor to invasive infection. Transition of S. aureus from the carriage state to that of invasive infection is often accompanied by a temperature upshift from approximately 33C to 37C. Such a temperature shift is known in other pathogens to influence gene expression, often resulting in increased production of factors that promote survival or virulence within the host. One mechanism by which bacteria modulate gene expression in response to temperature is by the regulatory activity of RNA-based thermosensors, cis-acting riboregulators that control translation efficiency. This study was designed to identify and characterize RNA-based thermosensors in S. aureus. Initially predicted by in silico analyses of the S. aureus USA300 genome, reporter-based gene expression analyses and site-specific mutagenesis were performed to demonstrate the presence of a functional thermosensor within the 5’ UTR of cidA, a gene implicated in biofilm formation and survival of the pathogen. The nucleic sequence composing the identified thermosensor are sufficient to confer temperature-dependent posttranscriptional regulation, and activity is predictably altered by the introduction of site-specific mutations designed to stabilize or destabilize the structure within the identified thermosensor. The identified regulator is functional in both the native bacterial host S. aureus and in the distally related species Escherichia coli, suggesting that its regulatory activity is independent of host-specific factors. Interestingly, unlike the majority of bacterial RNA-based thermosensors characterized to date, the cidA thermosensor facilitates increased target gene expression at lower temperatures. In addition to the characterization of the first RNA-based thermosensor in the significant pathogen S. aureus, it highlights the diversity of function within this important class of ribo-regulators.