Modulation of Bacterial Fitness and Virulence Through Antisense RNAs

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021 Feb 11;10:596277. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.596277. eCollection 2020.


Regulatory RNAs contribute to gene expression control in bacteria. Antisense RNAs (asRNA) are a class of regulatory RNAs that are transcribed from opposite strands of their target genes. Typically, these untranslated transcripts bind to cognate mRNAs and rapidly regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. In this article, we review asRNAs that modulate bacterial fitness and increase virulence. We chose examples that underscore the variety observed in nature including, plasmid- and chromosome-encoded asRNAs, a riboswitch-regulated asRNA, and asRNAs that require other RNAs or RNA-binding proteins for stability and activity. We explore how asRNAs improve bacterial fitness and virulence by modulating plasmid acquisition and maintenance, regulating transposon mobility, increasing resistance against bacteriophages, controlling flagellar production, and regulating nutrient acquisition. We conclude with a brief discussion on how this knowledge is helping to inform current efforts to develop new therapeutics.

Keywords: anti-sense RNA; asRNA; bacteria; pathogenesis; regulation; riboregulation; virulence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria* / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • RNA, Antisense* / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Virulence / genetics


  • RNA, Antisense
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Messenger