Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 23563153
Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 May;41(10):5469-82
Pathogenic Escherichia coli strains carrying the afa-8 gene cluster are frequently associated with extra-intestinal infections in humans and animals. The afa-8 A to E genes determine the formation of an afimbrial adhesive sheath consisting of the AfaD-VIII invasin and the AfaE-VIII adhesin at the bacterial cell surface. This structure is thought to be required for host colonization. We characterized a new gene encoding the small RNA AfaR, which is transcribed in cis from the complementary strand of the 3′ untranslated region of the afaD messenger RNA, within the afaD-afaE intercistronic region. AfaR is a trans-acting Hfq-dependent antisense small RNA that binds the 5′ untranslated region of the afaD messenger RNA, initiating several ribonuclease E-dependent cleavages, thereby downregulating production of the AfaD-VIII invasin. AfaR transcription is dependent on σ(E), a member of the stress response family of extracytoplasmic alternative sigma factors. We found that the AfaR-dependent regulatory pathway was controlled by temperature, allowing the production of the AfaD-VIII invasin at temperatures above 37 °C. Our findings suggest that the entry of afa-8-positive pathogenic E. coli strains into epithelial cells is tightly regulated by the AfaR small RNA.