Mycobacterial CarD defines a novel mechanism of response to starvation stress
Under starvation conditions, bacteria tend to slow down their translation rate by reducing rRNA synthesis, but the way they accomplish that may vary in different bacteria. In Mycobacterium species, transcription of rRNA is activated by the RNA polymerase (RNAP) accessory transcription factor CarD, which interacts directly with RNAP to stabilize the RNAP-promoter open complex formed on rRNA genes. The functions of CarD have been extensively studied, but the mechanisms that control its expression remain obscure. Here, we report that the level of CarD was tightly regulated when mycobacterial cells switched from nutrient-rich to nutrient-deprived conditions. At the translational level, an antisense RNA of carD (AscarD) was induced in a SigF-dependent manner to bind with carD mRNA and inhibit CarD translation, while at the post-translational level, the Clp protease was activated and quickly degrades the residual CarD. AscarD thus worked synergistically with Clp protease to maintain CarD at the minimal level to help mycobacterial cells cope with the nutritional stress. Altogether, our work elucidates the regulation mode of CarD and delineates a new mechanism for the mycobacterial starvation response, which is important for the adaptation and persistence of mycobacterial pathogens in the host environment.
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