Transcriptome-wide probing reveals RNA thermometers that regulate translation of glycerol permease genes inBacillus subtilis

RNA structure regulates bacterial gene expression by several distinct mechanisms via environmental and cellular stimuli, one of which is temperature. While some genome-wide studies have focused on heat shock treatments and the subsequent transcriptomic changes, soil bacteria are less likely to experience such rapid and extreme temperature changes. Though RNA thermometers (RNATs) have been found in 5' untranslated leader regions (5' UTRs) of heat shock and virulence-associated genes, this RNA-controlled mechanism could regulate other genes as well. Using Structure-seq2 and the chemical probe dimethyl sulfate (DMS) at four growth temperatures ranging from 23 to 42 °C, we captured a dynamic response of the Bacillus subtilis transcriptome to temperature. Our transcriptome-wide results show RNA structural changes across all four temperatures and reveal non-monotonic reactivity trends with increasing temperature. Then, focusing on subregions likely to contain regulatory RNAs, we examined 5' UTRs to identify large, local reactivity changes. This approach led to the discovery of RNATs that control expression of glpF (glycerol permease) and glpT (glycerol-3-phosphate permease); expression of both genes increased with increased temperature. Results with mutant RNATs indicate that both genes are controlled at the translational level. Increased import of glycerol at high temperatures could provide thermoprotection to proteins.
Funding Information
  • National Institutes of Health (GM127064, GM128311, GM098399)

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