Regulation of OmpA translation and shigella dysenteriae virulence by an RNA thermometer

Document Type


Publication Date



© 2020 American Society for Microbiology. RNA thermometers are cis-acting riboregulators that mediate the posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression in response to environmental temperature. Such regulation is conferred by temperature-responsive structural changes within the RNA thermometer that directly result in differential ribosomal binding to the regulated transcript. The significance of RNA thermometers in controlling bacterial physiology and pathogenesis is becoming increasingly clear. This study combines in silico, molecular genetics, and biochemical analyses to characterize both the structure and function of a newly identified RNA thermometer within the ompA transcript of Shigella dysenteriae. First identified by in silico structural predictions, genetic analyses have demonstrated that the ompA RNA thermometer is a functional riboregulator sufficient to confer posttranscriptional temperature-dependent regulation, with optimal expression observed at the host-associated temperature of 37°C. Structural studies and ribosomal binding analyses have revealed both increased exposure of the ribosomal binding site and increased ribosomal binding to the ompA transcript at permissive temperatures. The introduction of site-specific mutations predicted to alter the temperature responsiveness of the ompA RNA thermometer has predictable consequences for both the structure and function of the regulatory element. Finally, in vitro tissue culture-based analyses implicate the ompA RNA thermometer as a bona fide S. dysenteriae virulence factor in this bacterial pathogen. Given that ompA is highly conserved among Gram-negative pathogens, these studies not only provide insight into the significance of riboregulation in controlling Shigella virulence, but they also have the potential to facilitate further understanding of the physiology and/or pathogenesis of a wide range of bacterial species.