Environmental conditions modulate the transcriptomic response of both Caulobacter crescentus morphotypes to cu stress

Laurens Maertens, Pauline Cherry, Françoise Tilquin, Rob Van Houdt, Jean Yves Matroule

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Bacteria encounter elevated copper (Cu) concentrations in multiple environments, varying from mining wastes to antimicrobial applications of copper. As the role of the environment in the bacterial response to Cu ion exposure remains elusive, we used a tagRNA-seq approach to elucidate the disparate responses of two morphotypes of Caulobacter crescentus NA1000 to moderate Cu stress in a complex rich (PYE) medium and a defined poor (M2G) medium. The transcriptome was more responsive in M2G, where we observed an extensive oxidative stress response and reconfiguration of the proteome, as well as the induction of metal resistance clusters. In PYE, little evidence was found for an oxidative stress response, but several transport systems were differentially expressed, and an increased need for histidine was apparent. These results show that the Cu stress response is strongly dependent on the cellular environment. In addition, induction of the extracytoplasmic function sigma factor SigF and its regulon was shared by the Cu stress responses in both media, and its central role was confirmed by the phenotypic screening of a sigF::Tn5 mutant. In both media, stalked cells were more responsive to Cu stress than swarmer cells, and a stronger basal expression of several cell protection systems was noted, indicating that the swarmer cell is inherently more Cu resistant. Our approach also allowed for detecting several new transcription start sites, putatively indicating small regulatory RNAs, and additional levels of Cu-responsive regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1116
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Caulobacter
  • Copper
  • Environment
  • Morphotype
  • RNA-Seq
  • Transcription


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