The promoter most strongly induced upon activation of the Cpx two-component envelope stress response is the cpxP promoter. The 3′ untranscribed region (UTR) of the cpxP transcript is shown to produce a small RNA (sRNA), CpxQ. We investigated the role of CpxQ in combating envelope stress. Remarkably, the two effectors specified by the transcript are deployed to combat distinct stresses in different cellular compartments. CpxP acts in both a regulatory negative-feedback loop and as an effector that combats periplasmic protein misfolding. We find that CpxQ combats toxicity at the inner membrane (IM) by downregulating the synthesis of the periplasmic chaperone Skp. Our data indicate that this regulation prevents Skp from inserting β-barrel outer membrane proteins (OMPs) into the IM, a lethal event that likely collapses the proton motive force. Our findings suggest that Skp can fold and directly insert OMPs into a lipid bilayer in vivo without the aid of the Bam complex.
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