Originally described as a repressor of gene expression in the stationary phase of growth, CsrA (RsmA) regulates primary and secondary metabolic pathways, biofilm formation, motility, virulence circuitry of pathogens, quorum sensing and stress response systems by binding to conserved sequences in its target mRNAs and altering their translation and/or turnover. While the binding of CsrA to RNA is understood at an atomic level, new mechanisms of gene activation and repression by this protein are still emerging. In the γ-proteobacteria, small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) use molecular mimicry to sequester multiple CsrA dimers away from mRNA. In contrast, the FliW protein of Bacillus subtilis inhibits CsrA activity by binding to this protein, thereby establishing a checkpoint in flagellum morphogenesis. Turnover of CsrB and CsrC sRNAs in Escherichia coli requires a specificity protein of the GGDEF-EAL domain superfamily, CsrD, in addition to the housekeeping nucleases RNase E and PNPase. The Csr system of E. coli contains extensive autoregulatory circuitry, which governs the expression and activity of CsrA. Interaction of the Csr system with transcriptional regulatory networks results in a variety of complex response patterns. This minireview will highlight basic principles and new insights into the workings of these complex eubacterial regulatory systems.
© 2012 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.