Gac/Rsm signal transduction pathway of γ-proteobacteria: from RNA recognition to regulation of social behaviour


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In many γ-proteobacteria, the conserved GacS/GacA (BarA/UvrY) two-component system positively controls the expression of one to five genes specifying small RNAs (sRNAs) that are characterized by repeated unpaired GGA motifs but otherwise appear to belong to several independent families. The GGA motifs are essential for binding small, dimeric RNA-binding proteins of a single conserved family designated RsmA (CsrA). These proteins, which also occur in bacterial species outside the γ-proteobacteria, act as translational repressors of certain mRNAs when these contain an RsmA/CsrA binding site at or near the Shine-Dalgarno sequence plus additional binding sites located in the 5′ untranslated leader mRNA. Recent structural data have established that the RsmA-like protein RsmE of Pseudomonas fluorescens makes specific contacts with an RNA consensus sequence 5′-A/UCANGGANGU/A-3′ (where N is any nucleotide). Interaction with an RsmA/CsrA protein promotes the formation of a short stem supporting an ANGGAN loop. This conformation hinders access of 30S ribosomal subunits and hence translation initiation. The output of the Gac/Rsm cascade varies widely in different bacterial species and typically involves management of carbon storage and expression of virulence or biocontrol factors. Unidentified signal molecules co-ordinate the activity of the Gac/Rsm cascade in a cell population density-dependent manner.