Tryptophan codon-dependent transcription in chlamydia pneumoniae during gamma interferon-mediated tryptophan limitation

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8 Scopus citations


In evolving to an obligate intracellular niche, Chlamydia has streamlined its genome by eliminating superfluous genes as it relies on the host cell for a variety of nutritional needs like amino acids. However, Chlamydia can experience amino acid starvation when the human host cell in which the bacteria reside is exposed to interferon gamma (IFN-γ), which leads to a tryptophan (Trp)-limiting environment via induction of the enzyme indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase (IDO). The stringent response is used to respond to amino acid starvation in most bacteria but is missing from Chlamydia. Thus, how Chlamydia, a Trp auxotroph, responds to Trp starvation in the absence of a stringent response is an intriguing question. We previously observed that C. pneumoniae responds to this stress by globally increasing transcription while globally decreasing translation, an unusual response. Here, we sought to understand this and hypothesized that the Trp codon content of a given gene would determine its transcription level. We quantified transcripts from C. pneumoniae genes that were either rich or poor in Trp codons and found that Trp codon-rich transcripts were increased, whereas those that lacked Trp codons were unchanged or even decreased. There were exceptions, and these involved operons or large genes with multiple Trp codons: downstream transcripts were less abundant after Trp codon-rich sequences. These data suggest that ribosome stalling on Trp codons causes a negative polar effect on downstream sequences. Finally, reassessing previous C. pneumoniae microarray data based on codon content, we found that upregulated transcripts were enriched in Trp codons, thus supporting our hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2703-2713
Number of pages11
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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