Interference of flagellar rotation up-regulates the expression of small RNA contributing to Bordetella pertussis infection

Sci Adv. 2022 Dec 21;8(51):eade8971. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.ade8971. Epub 2022 Dec 21.


Bacterial small RNAs (sRNAs) posttranscriptionally regulate gene expressions involved in various biological processes, including pathogenicity. Our previous study identified sRNAs, the expression of which was up-regulated in Bordetella pertussis, the causative agent of whooping cough, upon tracheal colonization of the bacteria; however, their roles in bacterial infection remain unknown. Here, we found that one sRNA, Bpr4, contributes to B. pertussis infection by posttranscriptionally up-regulating filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA), a major adhesin of the bacteria. Bpr4 bound to the 5' untranslated region of fhaB mRNA encoding FHA and inhibited its degradation mediated by RNaseE. Our results demonstrated that Bpr4 up-regulation was triggered by the interference of flagellar rotation, which caused the disengagement of MotA, a flagellar stator. Subsequently, MotA activated a diguanylate cyclase to generate cyclic di-GMP, which plays a role in Bpr4 up-regulation through the RisK/RisA two-component system. Our findings indicate that a flagellum-triggered sensory system contributes to B. pertussis infection.