Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 29529286
Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 May;46(9):4733-4751
Clostridium difficile, a major human enteropathogen, must cope with foreign DNA invaders and multiple stress factors inside the host. We have recently provided an experimental evidence of defensive function of the C. difficile CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas (CRISPR-associated) system important for its survival within phage-rich gut communities. Here, we describe the identification of type I toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems with the first functional antisense RNAs in this pathogen. Through the analysis of deep-sequencing data, we demonstrate the general co-localization with CRISPR arrays for the majority of sequenced C. difficile strains. We provide a detailed characterization of the overlapping convergent transcripts for three selected TA pairs. The toxic nature of small membrane proteins is demonstrated by the growth arrest induced by their overexpression. The co-expression of antisense RNA acting as an antitoxin prevented this growth defect. Co-regulation of CRISPR-Cas and type I TA genes by the general stress response Sigma B and biofilm-related factors further suggests a possible link between these systems with a role in recurrent C. difficile infections. Our results provide the first description of genomic links between CRISPR and type I TA systems within defense islands in line with recently emerged concept of functional coupling of immunity and cell dormancy systems in prokaryotes.