Many horizontally acquired genes (xenogenes) in the bacterium Escherichia coli are maintained in a silent transcriptional state by the nucleoid-associated transcription regulatory protein H-NS. Recent evidence has shown that antibiotic-mediated inhibition of the transcription terminator protein Rho leads to de-repression of horizontally acquired genes, akin to a deletion of hns. The mechanism behind this similarity in outcomes between the perturbations of two distinct processes remains unclear. Using ChIP-seq of H-NS in wild-type cells, in addition to that in cells treated with bicyclomycin – a specific inhibitor of Rho, we show that bicyclomycin treatment leads to a decrease in binding signal for H-NS to the E. coli chromosome. Rho inhibition leads to RNA polymerase readthrough, which in principle could displace H-NS from the DNA, thus leading to transcriptional derepression of H-NS-silenced genes. Other possible mediators of the effect of Rho on H-NS are discussed. A possible positive feedback between Rho and H-NS might help reinforce xenogene silencing.
Volume 45, 2020
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