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Small RNAs in the Vibrionaceae: an ocean still to be explored

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Abstract In bacteria, the discovery of noncoding small RNAs (sRNAs) as modulators of gene expression in response to environmental signals has brought new insights into bacterial gene regulation, including control of pathogenicity. The Vibrionaceae constitute a family of marine bacteria of which many are responsible for infections affecting not only humans, such as Vibrio cholerae but also fish and marine invertebrates, representing the major cause of mortality in farmed marine species. They are able to colonize many habitats, existing as planktonic forms, in biofilms or associated with various hosts. This high adaptability is linked to their capacity to generate genetic diversity, in part through lateral gene transfer, but also by varying gene expression control. In the recent years, several major studies have illustrated the importance of small regulatory sRNAs in the Vibrionaceae for the control of pathogenicity and adaptation to environment and nutrient sources such as chitin, especially in V. cholerae and Vibrio harveyi. The existence of a complex regulatory network controlled by quorum sensing has been demonstrated in which sRNAs play central roles. This review covers major advances made in the discovery and elucidation of functions of Vibrionaceae sRNAs within the last 10 years. This article is categorized under: Regulatory RNAs/RNAi/Riboswitches > Regulatory RNAs

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Small RNAs (sRNAs) act at the heart of the regulatory network interconnecting virulence gene expression and natural competence in Vibrio cholerae. The situation is depicted at high cell density (HCD) and in the presence of chitin. Genes/factors that are not expressed in these conditions are in gray or in faded colors. At HCD, CqsS and LuxPQ bind autoinducer (AI) and act as phosphatases. LuxO is not phosphorylated, Qrrs are not made, HapR activates expression of the hapA and the prtV genes, whereas other virulence genes and biofilm formation are turned off. On the other hand, VarS phosphorylates VarA, CsrBs are produced in high amount and by titrating CsrA, decreases activation of LuxO. Finally, in the presence of chitin, or chitin derived oligomers, ChiS is activated, leading to the production of TfoR, which is a positive regulator of TfoX, an activator of genes required for natural competence. At HCD, the action of TfoX is reinforced by this of HapR. More details about the different actors depicted in this figure will be found in the text.
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