The RNA Chaperone Hfq Is Involved in Stress Response and Virulence in Neisseria meningitidis and Is a Pleiotropic Regulator of Protein Expression
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The well-conserved protein Hfq has emerged as the key modulator of riboregulation in bacteria. This protein is thought to function as an RNA chaperone and to facilitate base pairing between small regulatory RNA (sRNA) and mRNA targets, and many sRNAs are dependent on the Hfq protein for their regulatory functions. To address the possible role of Hfq in riboregulated circuits in Neisseria meningitidis, we generated an Hfq mutant of the MC58 strain, and the knockout mutant has pleiotropic phenotypes; it has a general growth phenotype in vitro in culture media, and it is sensitive to a wide range of stresses, including those that it may encounter in the host. Furthermore, the expression profile of a vast number of proteins is clearly altered in the mutant, and we have identified 27 proteins by proteomics. All of the phenotypes tested to date are also restored by complementation of Hfq expression in the mutant strain. Importantly, in ex vivo and in vivo models of infection the Hfq mutant is attenuated. These data indicate that Hfq plays a key role in stress response and virulence, and we propose a major role for Hfq in regulation of gene expression. Moreover, this study suggests that in meningococcus there is a large Hfq-mediated sRNA network which so far is largely unexplored.
Infection and Immunity
© 2009 American Society for Microbiology. The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.