Expression of Multiple Stress Response Genes by Escherichia Coli Under Modeled Reduced Gravity

Publication Title

Microgravity Science and Technology

Publication Date


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bacteria, gene expression, microgravity, stress response




Bacteria, in response to changes in their environment, quickly regulate gene expression; hence, transcriptional profiling has been widely used to characterize bacterial responses to various environmental conditions. In this study, we used clinorotation to grow bacteria under low-sedimentation, -shear, and -turbulence conditions (referred to as modeled reduced gravity, MRG, below) which profoundly impacts bacteria including causing elevated resistance to multiple environmental stresses. To explore potential mechanisms behind the multiple stress resistance response to MRG, we assessed expression levels of E. coli genes, using reverse transcription followed by real-time-PCR, involved in specific stress and general stress responses under MRG and normal gravity (NG) in nutritionally rich and minimal media, and during exponential and stationary phases of growth. In addition, growth rates as well as physico-chemical parameters of culture media were examined. Over-expression of stress response genes (csiD, cstA, katE, otsA, treA) occurred under MRG compared to NG controls, but only during the later stages of growth in rich medium demonstrating that bacterial response to MRG varies with growth-medium and -phase. At stationary phase in rich medium under MRG and NG, E. coli had similar growth rates (based on rRNA-leader abundance) and yields (cell mass and numbers); this coupled, with observations of simultaneous induction of starvation response genes (csiD and cstA) suggests the multiple stress resistance phenotype under MRG could be attributable to microzones of nutrient unavailability around cells. Overall, in rich medium, the response resembled the general stress response (GSR) that E. coli develops during stationary phase of growth. Along these same lines, induction of genes coding for GSR was reversed by improving nutritional conditions under MRG. The reversal of GSR under MRG suggests that the multiple stress response exhibited is not specific to MRG but may result from nutrient limitation experienced by bacteria after incubation in nutrient-rich media under these conditions.