A main strategy of bacteria adapting to environmental changes is the remodeling of their transcriptome. Changes in the transcript levels of specific genes are due to combined effects of various regulators, including small RNAs (sRNAs). sRNAs are post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression that mainly control translation, but also directly and indirectly affect the levels of their target transcripts. Yet, the relative contribution of an sRNA to the total change in the transcript level of a gene upon an environmental change has not been assessed. We present a design of differential gene expression analysis by RNA-seq that allows extracting the contribution of an sRNA to the total change in the transcript level of each gene in response to an environmental change by fitting a linear model to the data. We exemplify this for the sRNA RyhB in cells growing under iron limitation and show a variation among genes in the relative contribution of RyhB to the change in their transcript level upon iron limitation, from subtle to very substantial. Extracting the relative contribution of an sRNA to the total change in expression of genes is important for understanding the integration of regulation by sRNAs with other regulatory mechanisms in the cell.
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© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of NAR Genomics and Bioinformatics.