The cold-shock response--a hot topic

Mol Microbiol. 1994 Mar;11(5):811-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1994.tb00359.x.


The cold-shock response of Escherichia coli describes a specific pattern of gene expression in response to abrupt shifts to lower temperatures. This pattern includes the induction of cold-shock proteins, synthesis of proteins involved in transcription and translation, and repression of heat-shock proteins. The identified cold-shock proteins are involved in various cellular functions from supercoiling of DNA to initiation of translation. The major cold-shock protein, CspA, has high sequence similarity with three other E. coli proteins--CspB, CspC, and CspD. Using translational lacZ fusions, cspB was found to be cold-shock inducible at the level of transcription like cspA, while cspC and cspD were not. The Csp proteins, which share sequence similarity with other prokaryotic proteins and with the 'cold-shock domain' of eukaryotic Y-box proteins, may have a function in activating transcription or unwinding or masking RNA molecules. Because the cold-shock response can also be induced by the addition of certain inhibitors of translation, it has been proposed that the state of the ribosome is the physiological sensor for the induction. In addition to E. coli, cold-shock proteins have also been found in other prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis / physiology
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Guanosine Tetraphosphate / biosynthesis
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family
  • Peptide Elongation Factors*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Protein Conformation
  • Ribosomes / physiology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Elongation Factors
  • Yeasts / genetics
  • Yeasts / physiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • CspC protein, bacteria
  • CspD protein, bacteria
  • CspE protein, E coli
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Peptide Elongation Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transcriptional Elongation Factors
  • cold shock protein CS7.4, Bacteria
  • cold-shock protein CspB, Bacteria
  • cspC protein, E coli
  • cspH protein, E coli
  • nusA protein, E coli
  • Guanosine Tetraphosphate