J Bacteriol (Jul 20 2015)
The ubiquitous aquatic bacterium Caulobacter crescentus is highly resistant to uranium (U) and facilitates U biomineralization, and thus holds promise as an agent of U bioremediation. To gain an understanding of how C. crescentus tolerates U, we employed transposon mutagenesis paired with deep sequencing (Tn-seq) in a global screen for genomic elements required for U resistance. Of the 3879 annotated genes in the C. crescentus genome, 37 were found to be specifically associated with fitness under U stress, 15 of which were subsequently tested through mutational analysis. Systematic deletion analysis revealed that mutants lacking outer membrane transporters (rsaFa and rsaFb), a stress-responsive transcription factor (cztR), or a ppGpp synthetase/hydrolase (spoT) exhibited a significantly lower survival rate under U stress. RsaFa and RsaFb, which are homologues of TolC in E. coli, have previously been shown to mediate S-layer export. Transcriptional analysis revealed upregulation of rsaFa and rsaFb by 4- and 10-fold, respectively, in the presence of U. We additionally show that rsaFa mutants accumulated higher levels of U compared to wild type, with no significant increase in oxidative stress levels. Our results suggest a function for RsaFa and RsaFb in U efflux and/or maintenance of membrane integrity during U stress. In addition, we present data implicating CztR and SpoT in resistance to U stress. Together, our findings reveal novel gene targets that are key to understanding the molecular mechanisms of U resistance in C. crescentus. IMPORTANCE: Caulobacter crescentus is an aerobic bacterium that is highly resistant to uranium (U) and has great potential to be used in U bioremediation, but its mechanisms of U resistance are poorly understood. We conducted a Tn-seq screen to identify genes specifically required for U resistance in C. crescentus. The genes that we identified have previously remained elusive using other omic approaches and thus provide significant insight into the mechanisms of U resistance by C. crescentus. In particular, we show that outer membrane transporters RsaFa and RsaFb, previously known as part of the S-layer export machinery, may confer U resistance by U efflux and/or maintaining membrane integrity during U stress.