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Free Content Bacterial cold shock responses

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As a measure for molecular motion, temperature is one of the most important environmental factors for life as it directly influences structural and hence functional properties of cellular components. After a sudden increase in ambient temperature, which is termed heat shock, bacteria respond by expressing a specific set of genes whose protein products are designed to mainly cope with heat-induced alterations of protein conformation. This heat shock response comprises the expression of protein chaperones and proteases, and is under central control of an alternative sigma factor (σ32) which acts as a master regulator that specifically directs RNA polymerase to transcribe from the heat shock promotors. In a similar manner, bacteria express a well-defined set of proteins after a rapid decrease in temperature, which is termed cold shock. This protein set, however, is different from that expressed under heat shock conditions and predominantly comprises proteins such as helicases, nucleases, and ribosome-associated components that directly or indirectly interact with the biological information molecules DNA and RNA. Interestingly, in contrast to the heat shock response, to date no cold-specific sigma factor has been identified. Rather, it appears that the cold shock response is organized as a complex stimulon in which post-transcriptional events play an important role. In this review, we present a summary of research results that have been acquired in recent years by examinations of bacterial cold shock responses. Important processes such as cold signal perception, membrane adaptation, and the modification of the translation apparatus are discussed together with many other cold-relevant aspects of bacterial physiology and first attempts are made to dissect the cold shock stimulon into less complex regulatory subunits. Special emphasis is placed on findings concerning the nucleic acid-binding cold shock proteins which play a fundamental role not only during cold shock adaptation but also under optimal growth conditions.
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Keywords: cold shock proteins; low temperature stress adaptation; membrane; pathogens; regulation; ribosome; temperature-dependent gene expression

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Science Review, PO Box 314, St. Albans, Herts AL1 4ZG, UK

Publication date: 2003-02-15

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