Open Access Research article

Differential expression of small RNAs from Burkholderia thailandensis in response to varying environmental and stress conditions

Chris J Stubben, Sofiya N Micheva-Viteva, Yulin Shou, Sarah K Buddenborg, John M Dunbar and Elizabeth Hong-Geller*

  • * Corresponding author: Elizabeth Hong-Geller

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

Bioscience Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87544, USA

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:385  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-385

Published: 19 May 2014



Bacterial small RNAs (sRNAs) regulate gene expression by base-pairing with downstream target mRNAs to attenuate translation of mRNA into protein at the post-transcriptional level. In response to specific environmental changes, sRNAs can modulate the expression levels of target genes, thus enabling adaptation of cellular physiology.


We profiled sRNA expression in the Gram-negative bacteria Burkholderia thailandensis cultured under 54 distinct growth conditions using a Burkholderia-specific microarray that contains probe sets to all intergenic regions greater than 90 bases. We identified 38 novel sRNAs and performed experimental validation on five sRNAs that play a role in adaptation of Burkholderia to cell stressors. In particular, the trans-encoded BTH_s1 and s39 exhibited differential expression profiles dependent on growth phase and cell stimuli, such as antibiotics and serum. Furthermore, knockdown of the highly-expressed BTH_s39 by antisense transcripts reduced B. thailandensis cell growth and attenuated host immune response upon infection, indicating that BTH_s39 functions in bacterial metabolism and adaptation to the host. In addition, expression of cis-encoded BTH_s13 and s19 found in the 5′ untranslated regions of their cognate genes correlated with tight regulation of gene transcript levels. This sRNA-mediated downregulation of gene expression may be a conserved mechanism of post-transcriptional gene dosage control.


These studies provide a broad analysis of differential Burkholderia sRNA expression profiles and illustrate the complexity of bacterial gene regulation in response to different environmental stress conditions.

Small RNAs; Burkholderia; Microarray; Stress conditions; Bacterial adaptation; Gene expression