Cellular RNA Targets of Cold Shock Proteins CspC and CspE and Their Importance for Serum Resistance in Septicemic Escherichia coli

Yael Yair, Charlotte Michaux, Dvora Biran, Jörg Bernhard, Jörg Vogel, Lars Barquist, Eliora Z. Ron

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The RNA chaperones, cold shock proteins CspC and CspE, are important in stress response and adaptation. We studied their role in the pathogenesis of a virulent Escherichia coli, representative of extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) which are serum resistant and septicemic. We performed a global analysis to identify transcripts that interact with these cold shock proteins (CSPs), focusing on virulence-related genes. We used CLIP-seq, which combines UV cross-linking, immunoprecipitation and RNA sequencing. A large number of transcripts bound to the CSPs were identified, and many bind both CspC and CspE. Many transcripts were of genes involved in protein synthesis, transcription and energy metabolism. In addition, there were virulence-related genes, (i.e., fur and ryhB), essential for iron homeostasis. The CLIP-seq results were validated on two transcripts, clpX and tdcA, reported as virulence-associated. Deletion of either CspC or CspE significantly decreased their transcript levels and in a double deletion mutant cspC/cspE, the transcript stability of tdcA and clpX was reduced by 32-fold and 10-fold, respectively. We showed that these two genes are important for virulence, as deleting either of them resulted in loss of serum resistance, a requirement for sepsis. As several virulence-related transcripts interact with CspC or CspE, we determined the importance of these proteins for growth in serum and showed that deletion of either gene significantly reduced serum survival. This phenotype could be partially complemented by cspE and fully complemented by cspC. These results indicate that the two RNA chaperones are essential for virulence, and that CspC particularly critical. IMPORTANCE Virulent Escherichia coli strains that cause infections outside the intestinal tract—extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC)—constitute a major clinical problem worldwide. They are involved in several distinct conditions, including urinary tract infections, newborn meningitis, and sepsis. Due to increasing antibiotic resistance, these strains are a main factor in hospital and community-acquired infections. Because many strains, which do not cross-react immunologically are involved, developing a simple vaccine is not possible. Therefore, it is essential to understand the pathogenesis of these bacteria to identify potential targets for developing drugs or vaccines. One of the least investigated systems involves RNA binding proteins, important for stability of transcripts and global gene regulation. Two such proteins are CspC and CspE (“cold shock proteins”), RNA chaperones involved in stress adaptation. Here we performed a global analysis to identify the transcripts which are affected by these two chaperones, with focus on virulence-associated transcripts.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • CspC
  • CspE
  • Escherichia coli
  • ExPEC
  • RNA binding proteins
  • cold shock proteins
  • extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli
  • serum resistance


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