Silent but deadly: IS200 promotes pathogenicity in <i>Salmonella</i> Typhimurium

<p>Bacterial transposons were long thought of as selfish mobile genetic elements that propagate at the expense of ‘host’ bacterium fitness. However, limited transposition can benefit the host organism by promoting DNA rearrangements and facilitating horizontal gene transfer. Here we discuss and provide context for our recently published work which reported the surprising finding that an otherwise dormant transposon, IS200, encodes a regulatory RNA in <i>Salmonella</i> Typhimurium. This previous work identified a trans-acting sRNA that is encoded in the 5′UTR of IS200 transposase mRNA (<i>tnpA</i>). This sRNA represses expression of genes encoded within <i>Salmonella</i> Pathogenicity Island 1 (SPI-1), and accordingly limits invasion into non-phagocytic cells <i>in vitro</i>. We present new data here that shows IS200 elements are important for colonization of the mouse gastrointestinal tract. We discuss our previous and current findings in the context of transposon biology and suggest that otherwise ‘silent’ transposons may in fact play an important role in controlling host gene expression.</p>