Characterizing a Small Regulatory RNA in Brucella abortus Linked to Outer Membrane Stress Resistance

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Virginia Tech


Brucella abortus is a bacterial species that infects cattle, elk, and bison herds worldwide and is a causative agent of brucellosis. B. abortus is a common form of zoonosis, as incidental spillover into the human population results in millions of infections annually. Current treatment options are limited to culling infected animals and treating humans with a rigorous antibiotic regimen, which still results in up to a 30% relapse rate. Detection of the pathogen is difficult due to the replicative niche residing within the host's immune cells, specifically macrophages and dendritic cells. Numerous small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) were found to be expressed by B. abortus, and it was hypothesized that they may be important for virulence. One sRNA, when deleted, was shown to be linked to outer membrane stress resistance and was named MssR (membrane sensitivity sRNA). When the ΔmssR strain was tested in both macrophage and mouse models of infection, there were no virulence defects. Additionally, proteomic and transcriptomic studies of the ΔmssR strain showed very few dysregulated targets. Expression of mssR was tested under numerous biologically relevant conditions, and it was shown to be expressed significantly more during exponential phase of growth, compared to stationary phase. Initial microscopical analysis of mutant cells after treatment with sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS_ did not reveal any morphological differences. It is unknown what contributes to the observed phenotypes and additional experiments are required to determine what is causing the perturbations in the outer membrane of the ΔmssR strain.



Brucella, zoonosis, sRNAs, genetic regulation