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The small noncoding RNA sr8384 determines solvent synthesis and cell growth in industrial solventogenic clostridia

By Yunpeng Yang, Nannan Lang, Huan Zhang, Lu Zhang, Changsheng Chai, Weihong Jiang, Yang Gu

Posted 08 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/663880

Small noncoding RNAs (sncRNAs) are crucial regulatory molecules in organisms and are well known not only for their roles in the control of diverse essential biological processes but also for their value in genetic modification. However, to date, in gram-positive anaerobic solventogenic clostridia (which are a group of important industrial bacteria with exceptional substrate and product diversity), sncRNAs remain minimally explored, leading to a lack of detailed understanding regarding these important molecules and their use as targets for genetic improvement. Here, we performed large-scale phenotypic screens of a transposon-mediated mutant library of Clostridium acetobutylicum , a typical solventogenic clostridial species, and discovered a novel sncRNA (sr8384) that functions as a determinant positive regulator of growth and solvent synthesis. Comparative transcriptomic data combined with genetic and biochemical analyses revealed that sr8384 acts as a pleiotropic regulator and controls multiple targets that are associated with crucial biological processes, through direct or indirect interactions. Notably, modulation of the expression level of either sr8384 or its core target genes significantly increased the growth rate, solvent titer and productivity of the cells, indicating the importance of sr8384-mediated regulatory network in C. acetobutylicum . Furthermore, a homolog of sr8384 was discovered and proven to be functional in another important Clostridium species, C. beijerinckii , suggesting the potential broad role of this sncRNA in clostridia. Our work showcases a previously unknown potent and complex role of sncRNAs in clostridia, providing new opportunities for understanding and engineering these anaerobes, including pathogenic Clostridium species.

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