A large number of bacteria have been found to govern virulence and heat shock responses using temperature-sensing RNAs known as RNA thermometers. A prime example is the agsA thermometer known to regulate the production of the AgsA heat shock protein in Salmonella enterica using a "fourU" structural motif. Using the SHAPE-Seq RNA structure-probing method in vivo and in vitro, we found that the regulator functions by a subtle shift in equilibrium RNA structure populations that leads to a partial melting of the helix containing the ribosome binding site. We also demonstrate that binding of the ribosome to the agsA mRNA causes changes to the thermometer structure that appear to facilitate thermometer helix unwinding. These results demonstrate how subtle RNA structural changes can govern gene expression and illuminate the function of an important bacterial regulatory motif.
ASJC Scopus subject areas