Networks of Resistance: Small RNA Control of Antibiotic Resistance

Trends Genet. 2021 Jan;37(1):35-45. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2020.08.016. Epub 2020 Sep 17.


The golden age of antibiotics has passed, and the threat of untreatable antimicrobial resistant infections is now a reality for many individuals. Understanding how bacteria resist antimicrobial treatment and regulate gene expression in response to antibiotics is an important step towards combating resistance. In this review we focus on a ubiquitous class of bacterial gene regulators termed regulatory small RNAs (sRNAs) and how they contribute to antimicrobial resistance and tolerance. Small RNAs have notable roles in modulating the composition of the bacterial envelope, and through these functions control intrinsic antimicrobial resistance in many human pathogens. Recent technical advances that allow profiling of the 'sRNA interactome' have revealed a complex post-transcriptional network of sRNA interactions that can be used to identify network hubs and regulatory bottlenecks. Sequence-specific inhibition of these sRNAs with programmable RNA-targeting therapeutics may present avenues for treating antimicrobial resistant pathogens or resensitizing to our current antibiotics.

Keywords: AMR pathogens; antibiotic tolerance; antimicrobial resistance; riboregulation; sRNA–mRNA interaction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Humans
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Untranslated / genetics*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Small Untranslated