Small RNAs Activate Salmonella Pathogenicity Island 1 by Modulating mRNA Stability through the hilD mRNA 39 Untranslated Region

Sabrina Z. Abdulla, Kyungsub Kim, Muhammad S. Azam, Yekaterina A. Golubeva, Fatih Cakar, James M. Slauch, Carin K. Vanderpool

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium is an enteric pathogen associated with foodborne disease. Salmonella invades the intestinal epithelium using a type three secretion system encoded on Salmonella pathogenicity island 1 (SPI-1). SPI-1 genes are tightly regulated by a complex feed-forward loop to ensure proper spatial and temporal expression. Most regulatory input is integrated at HilD, through control of hilD mRNA translation or HilD protein activity. The hilD mRNA possesses a 310-nucleotide 39 untranslated region (UTR) that influences HilD and SPI-1 expression, and this regulation is dependent on Hfq and RNase E, cofactors known to mediate small RNA (sRNA) activities. Thus, we hypothesized that the hilD mRNA 39 UTR is a target for sRNAs. Here, we show that two sRNAs, SdsR and Spot 42, regulate SPI-1 by targeting different regions of the hilD mRNA 39 UTR. Regulatory activities of these sRNAs depended on Hfq and RNase E, in agreement with previous roles found for both at the hilD 39 UTR. Salmonella mutants lacking SdsR and Spot 42 had decreased virulence in a mouse model of infection. Collectively, this work suggests that these sRNAs targeting the hilD mRNA 39 UTR increase hilD mRNA levels by interfering with RNase E-dependent mRNA degradation and that this regulatory effect is required for Salmonella invasiveness. Our work provides novel insights into mechanisms of sRNA regulation at bacterial mRNA 39 UTRs and adds to our knowledge of post-transcriptional regulation of the SPI-1 complex feed-forward loop. IMPORTANCE Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium is a prominent foodborne pathogen, infecting millions of people a year. To express virulence genes at the correct time and place in the host, Salmonella uses a complex regulatory network that senses environmental conditions. Known for their role in allowing quick responses to stress and virulence conditions, we investigated the role of small RNAs in facilitating precise expression of virulence genes. We found that the 39 untranslated region of the hilD mRNA, encoding a key virulence regulator, is a target for small RNAs and RNase E. The small RNAs stabilize hilD mRNA to allow proper expression of Salmonella virulence genes in the host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • RNase E
  • SdsR
  • Spot 42

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


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