The quorum-hindered transcription factor YenR of Yersinia enterocolitica inhibits pheromone production and promotes motility via a small non-coding RNA


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The YenR and YenI proteins of Yersinia enterocolitica resemble the quorum sensing proteins LuxR and LuxI of Vibrio fischeri. Apo-YenR activated a gene, designated yenS, that lies adjacent to and divergent from yenR. YenR-dependent expression of yenS was inhibited by endogenous or exogenous 3-oxohexanoylhomoserine lactone (OHHL) a pheromone made by YenI. Purified apo-YenR bound non-cooperatively to two 20-nucleotide sites that lie upstream of yenS. Binding occurred in the absence of (OHHL), and YenR was largely released from the DNA by this pheromone. yenS encoded two non-translated RNAs 169 and 105 nucleotides long that share the same 5′ end but have different 3′ ends. One or both RNAs inhibited the translation and accumulation of the yenI mRNA by binding to a region that overlaps the YenI start codon. A mutation in yenI strongly stimulated swarming motility on the surface of semi-solid agar, while exogenous OHHL completely suppressed this phenotype. Hypermotility in yenI mutants was also suppressed by mutations in yenR or yenS, suggesting that YenS plays a direct, stimulatory role in swarming motility.