Research ArticleMicrobiology

Gene expression kinetics governs stimulus-specific decoration of the Salmonella outer membrane

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Sci. Signal.  08 May 2018:
Vol. 11, Issue 529, eaar7921
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aar7921

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Same genes, different phenotypes

The lipopolysaccharide (LPS) coat of Gram-negative bacteria can be modified to evade the host immune response or confer resistance to antimicrobial compounds. Modifications that reduce the negative charge of the LPS component lipid A increase the resistance of Salmonella to the antibiotic polymyxin B and other cationic antimicrobial compounds. Hong et al. found that different stimuli elicited distinct lipid A modification profiles in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, although they promoted expression of the same set of genes encoding lipid A–modifying enzymes. Different stimuli caused the genes to be activated with different kinetics, thus altering the temporal order in which the lipid A–modifying enzymes were produced. This resulted in distinct lipid A profiles and different effects on resistance to polymyxin B. These findings illustrate how bacteria can use a limited set of enzymes to generate a range of adaptations to different stimuli.