Abstract Background Bacterial Hfq proteins post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression, primarily by mediating the interaction between sRNAs (small RNAs) and their target mRNAs. The role of Hfq-based regulation has been well defined in Gram-negative bacteria, but comparatively less is known about the impact of Hfq proteins in Gram-positive species. The Gram-positive pathogen Bacillus anthracis (causative agent of anthrax) is distinct in that it expresses three homologs of Hfq: Hfq1 and Hfq2 from the chromosome, and Hfq3 from the pXO1 virulence plasmid. Results In this study, we utilized overexpression as a strategy to examine the impact of Hfq3 on B. anthracis physiology. The increase in Hfq3 protein levels led to anomalous cell shape and chain formation, which manifested as a severe growth defect. This phenotype was specific to B. anthracis, as Hfq3 expression in B. subtilis at similar levels was not toxic. Toxicity was dependent on residues on the distal face of Hfq3 that are involved in mRNA binding in other bacterial species. Conclusions Thus, we hypothesize that Hfq3 interacts with RNA(s) involved in essential functions in the B. anthracis cell, leading to increased binding upon overexpression that either sequesters or accelerates degradation of RNAs important for growth. These results not only...
Biophysics ; Biochemistry ; Medicine ; Microbiology ; Genetics ; Molecular Biology ; Infectious Diseases ; Virology
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