Cells adapt to shifts in their environment by remodeling transcription. Measuring changes in transcription at the genome scale is now routine, but defining the functional significance of individual genes within large gene expression datasets remains a major challenge. We applied a network-based algorithm to interrogate publicly available transcription data to predict genes that serve major functional roles in Caulobacter crescentus stress survival. This approach identified GsrN, a conserved small RNA that is directly controlled by the general stress sigma factor, σT, and functions as a potent post-transcriptional regulator of survival under multiple stress conditions. GsrN expression is both necessary and sufficient to protect cells from hydrogen peroxide, where it functions by base pairing with the leader of katG mRNA and promoting catalase/peroxidase expression. We conclude that GsrN convenes a post-transcriptional layer of gene expression that serves a central functional role in stress physiology.
Gene network analysis identifies a central post-transcriptional regulator of cellular stress survival
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