Regulation of bacterial virulence by Csr (Rsm) systems

Christopher A. Vakulskas, Anastasia H. Potts, Babitzke Paul, Brian M.M. Ahmer, Romeo Tony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

229 Scopus citations


Most bacterial pathogens have the remarkable ability to flourish in the external environment and in specialized host niches. This ability requires their metabolism, physiology, and virulence factors to be responsive to changes in their surroundings. It is no surprise that the underlying genetic circuitry that supports this adaptability is multilayered and exceedingly complex. Studies over the past 2 decades have established that the CsrA/RsmA proteins, global regulators of posttranscriptional gene expression, play important roles in the expression of virulence factors of numerous proteobacterial pathogens. To accomplish these tasks, CsrA binds to the 5' untranslated and/or early coding regions of mRNAs and alters translation, mRNA turnover, and/or transcript elongation. CsrA activity is regulated by noncoding small RNAs (sRNAs) that contain multiple CsrA binding sites, which permit them to sequester multiple CsrA homodimers away from mRNA targets. Environmental cues sensed by two-component signal transduction systems and other regulatory factors govern the expression of the CsrA-binding sRNAs and, ultimately, the effects of CsrA on secretion systems, surface molecules and biofilm formation, quorum sensing, motility, pigmentation, siderophore production, and phagocytic avoidance. This review presents the workings of the Csr system, the paradigm shift that it generated for understanding posttranscriptional regulation, and its roles in virulence networks of animal and plant pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-224
Number of pages32
JournalMicrobiology and Molecular Biology Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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