The global regulator H-NS of Escherichia coli controls genes related to stress response, biofilm formation and virulence by recognizing curved DNA and by silencing acquired genes. Here, we rewired H-NS to control biofilm formation using protein engineering; H-NS variant K57N was obtained that reduces biofilm formation 10-fold compared with wild-type H-NS (wild-type H-NS increases biofilm formation whereas H-NS K57N reduces it). Whole-transcriptome analysis revealed that H-NS K57N represses biofilm formation through its interaction with the nucleoid-associated proteins Cnu and StpA and in the absence of these proteins, H-NS K57N was unable to reduce biofilm formation. Significantly, H-NS K57N enhanced the excision of defective prophage Rac while wild-type H-NS represses excision, and H-NS controlled only Rac excision among the nine resident E. coli K-12 prophages. Rac prophage excision not only led to the change in biofilm formation but also resulted in cell lysis through the expression of toxin HokD. Hence, the H-NS regulatory system may be evolved through a single-amino-acid change in its N-terminal oligomerization domain to control biofilm formation, prophage excision and apoptosis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology