Plasmids manipulate bacterial behaviour through translational regulatory crosstalk.
Beyond their role in horizontal gene transfer, conjugative plasmids commonly encode homologues of bacterial regulators. Known plasmid regulator homologues have highly targeted effects upon the transcription of specific bacterial traits. Here, we characterise a plasmid translational regulator, RsmQ, capable of taking global regulatory control in Pseudomonas fluorescens and causing a behavioural switch from motile to sessile lifestyle. RsmQ acts as a global regulator, controlling the host proteome through direct interaction with host mRNAs and interference with the host’s translational regulatory network. This mRNA interference leads to large-scale proteomic changes in metabolic genes, key regulators, and genes involved in chemotaxis, thus controlling bacterial metabolism and motility. Moreover, comparative analyses found RsmQ to be encoded on a large number of divergent plasmids isolated from multiple bacterial host taxa, suggesting the widespread importance of RsmQ for manipulating bacterial behaviour across clinical, environmental, and agricultural niches. RsmQ is a widespread plasmid global translational regulator primarily evolved for host chromosomal control to manipulate bacterial behaviour and lifestyle.