Characterization of broadly pleiotropic phenotypes caused by an hfq insertion mutation in Escherichia coli K-12

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Summary

The region immediately downstream from the miaA tRNA modification gene at 94.8 min contains the hfq gene and the hflA region, which are important in the bacteriophage Qβ and lambda life cycles. The roles of these genes in bacteria remain largely unknown. We report here the characterization of two chromosomal hfq insertion mutations. An omega (ω) cassette insertion near the end of hfq resulted in phenotypes only slightly different from the parent, although transcript mapping demonstrated that the insertion was completely polar on hfq expression. In contrast, an equally polar omega cassette insertion near the beginning of hfq caused pronounced pleiotropic phenotypes, including decreased growth rates and yields, decreased negative supercoiling of piasmids in stationary phase, increased cell size, osmosensitivity, increased oxidation of carbon sources, increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light, and suppression of bgl activation by hns mutations, hfq::ω mutant phenotypes were distinct from those caused by omega insertions early in the miaA tRNA modification gene. On the other hand, both hfq insertions interfered with lambda phage plaque formation, probably by means of polarity at the hflA region. Together, these results show that hfq function plays a fundamental role in Escherichia coli physiology and that hfq and the hflA region are in the amiB-mutL-miaA-hfq-hflX superoperon.

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