The global regulator CsrA (carbon storage regulator) of Escherichia coli is a small RNA binding protein that represses various metabolic pathways and processes that are induced in the stationary phase of growth, while it activates certain exponential phase functions. Both repression and activation by CsrA involve posttranscriptional mechanisms, in which CsrA binding to mRNA leads to decreased or increased transcript stability, respectively. CsrA also binds to a small untranslated RNA, CsrB, forming a ribonucleoprotein complex, which antagonizes CsrA activity. We have further examined the regulatory interactions of CsrA and CsrB RNA. The 5′ end of the CsrB transcript was mapped, and a csrB::cam null mutant was constructed. CsrA protein and CsrB RNA levels were estimated throughout the growth curves of wild-type and isogenic csrA, csrB, rpoS, or csrA rpoS mutant strains. CsrA levels exhibited modest or negligible effects of these mutations. The intracellular concentration of CsrA exceeded the total CsrA-binding capacity of intracellular CsrB RNA. In contrast, CsrB levels were drastically decreased (∼10-fold) in the csrA mutants. CsrB transcript stability was unaffected by csrA. The expression of a csrB-lacZ transcriptional fusion containing the region from −242 to +4 bp of the csrB gene was decreased ∼20-fold by a csrA::kanR mutation in vivo but was unaffected by CsrA protein in vitro. These results reveal a significant, though most likely indirect, role for CsrA in regulating csrB transcription. Furthermore, our findings suggest that CsrA mediates an intriguing form of autoregulation, whereby its activity, but not its levels, is modulated through effects on an RNA antagonist, CsrB
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