Vibrio cholerae causes the severe diarrhoeal disease cholera. A cascade of regulators controls expression of virulence determinants in V. cholerae at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. ToxT is the direct transcription activator of the major virulence genes in V. cholerae. Here we describe TarA, a highly conserved, small regulatory RNA, whose transcription is activated by ToxT from toxboxes present upstream of the ToxT-activated gene tcpI. TarA regulates ptsG, encoding a major glucose transporter in V. cholerae. Cells overexpressing TarA exhibit decreased steady-state levels of ptsG mRNA and grow poorly in glucose-minimal media. A mutant lacking the ubiquitous regulatory protein Hfq expresses diminished TarA levels, indicating that TarA likely interacts with Hfq to regulate gene expression. RNAhybrid analysis of TarA and the putative ptsG mRNA leader suggests potential productive base-pairing between these two RNA molecules. A V. cholerae mutant lacking TarA is compromised for infant mouse colonization in competition with wild type, suggesting a role in the in vivo fitness of V. cholerae. Although somewhat functionally analogous to SgrS of Escherichia coli, TarA does not encode a regulatory peptide, and its expression is activated by the virulence gene pathway in V. cholerae and not by glycolytic intermediates.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.