Pathogenic bacteria produce powerful virulent factors, such as pore-forming toxins, that promote their survival and cause serious damage to the host. Host cells reply to membrane stresses and ionic imbalance by modifying gene expression at the epigenetic, transcriptional and translational level, to recover from the toxin attack. The fact that the majority of the human transcriptome encodes for non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) raises the question: do host cells deploy non-coding transcripts to rapidly control the most energy-consuming process in cells—i.e., host translation—to counteract the infection? Here, we discuss the intriguing possibility that membrane-damaging toxins induce, in the host, the expression of toxin-specific long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), which act as sponges for other molecules, encoding small peptides or binding target mRNAs to depress their translation efficiency. Unravelling the function of host-produced lncRNAs upon bacterial infection or membrane damage requires an improved understanding of host lncRNA expression patterns, their association with polysomes and their function during this stress. This field of investigation holds a unique opportunity to reveal unpredicted scenarios and novel approaches to counteract antibiotic-resistant infections.
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