PhoQ/PhoP is a central two-component system involved in magnesium homeostasis, pathogenicity, cell envelope composition, and acid resistance in several bacterial species. The small RNA GcvB is identified here as a novel direct regulator of the synthesis of PhoQ/PhoP in Escherichia coli, and this control relies on a novel pairing region of GcvB. After MicA, this is the second Hfq-dependent small RNA that represses expression of the phoPQ operon. Both MicA and GcvB bind phoPQ mRNA in vivo and in vitro around the translation initiation region of phoP. Binding of either small RNA is sufficient to inhibit ribosome binding and induce mRNA degradation. Surprisingly, however, MicA and GcvB have different effects on the levels of the PhoP protein and therefore on the expression of the PhoP regulon. These results highlight the complex connections between small RNAs and transcriptional regulation networks in bacteria.
Controlling iron homeostasis is crucial for all aerobically grown living cells that are exposed to oxidative damage by reactive oxygen species (ROS), as free iron increases the production of ROS. Methionine sulfoxide reductases (Msr) are key enzymes in repairing ROS-mediated damage to proteins, as they reduce oxidized methionine (MetSO) residues to methionine. E. coli synthesizes two Msr, A and B, which exhibit substrate diastereospecificity. The bacterial iron-responsive small RNA (sRNA) RyhB controls iron metabolism by modulating intracellular iron usage. We show in this paper that RyhB is a direct regulator of the msrB gene that encodes the MsrB enzyme. RyhB down-regulates msrB transcripts along with Hfq and RNaseE proteins since mutations in the ryhB, fur, hfq, or RNaseE-encoded genes resulted in iron-insensitive expression of msrB. Our results show that RyhB binds to two sequences within the short 5UTR of msrB mRNA as identified by reverse transcriptase and RNase and lead (II) protection assays. Toeprinting analysis shows that RyhB pairing to msrB mRNA prevents efficient ribosome binding and thereby inhibits translation initiation. In vivo site directed-mutagenesis experiments in the msrB 5UTR region indicate that both RyhB-pairing sites are required to decrease msrB expression. Thus, this study suggests a novel mechanism of translational regulation where a same sRNA can basepair to two different locations within the same mRNA species. In contrast, expression of msrA is not influenced by changes in iron levels.
Ribosomal (r-) RNA adopts a well-defined structure within the ribosome, but the role of r-proteins in stabilizing this structure is poorly understood. To address this issue, we use optical tweezers to unfold RNA fragments in the presence or absence of r-proteins. Here, we focus on Escherichia coli r-protein L20, whose globular C-terminal domain (L20C) recognizes an irregular stem in domain II of 23S rRNA. L20C also binds its own mRNA and represses its translation; binding occurs at two different sites--i.e., a pseudoknot and an irregular stem. We find that L20C makes rRNA and mRNA fragments encompassing its binding sites more resistant to mechanical unfolding. The regions of increased resistance correspond within two base pairs to the binding sites identified by conventional methods. While stabilizing specific RNA structures, L20C does not accelerate their formation from alternate conformations--i.e., it acts as a clamp but not as a chaperone. In the ribosome, L20C contacts only one side of its target stem but interacts with both strands, explaining its clamping effect. Other r-proteins bind rRNA similarly, suggesting that several rRNA structures are stabilized by "one-side" clamping.
Chemical probing of RNA structure has become one of the most popular approaches to map the conformation of RNA molecules of various sizes under well-defined experimental conditions. The method monitors the sensitivity of each nucleotide to various chemicals, which reflects its hydrogen-bonding environment within the RNA molecule. The goal of this chapter is to provide the reader with an experimental guide to mapping the secondary structure of RNA thermosensors in vitro with the most suitable chemical probes.
Although during the past decade research has shown the functional importance of disorder in proteins, many of the structural and dynamics properties of intrinsically unstructured proteins (IUPs) remain to be elucidated. This review is focused on the role of the extensions of the ribosomal proteins in the early steps of the assembly of the eubacterial 50 S subunit. The recent crystallographic structures of the ribosomal particles have revealed the picture of a complex assembly pathway that condenses the rRNA and the ribosomal proteins into active ribosomes. However, little is know about the molecular mechanisms of this process. It is thought that the long basic r-protein extensions that penetrate deeply into the subunit cores play a key role through disorder-order transitions and/or co-folding mechanisms. A current view is that such structural transitions may facilitate the proper rRNA folding. In this paper, the structures of the proteins L3, L4, L13, L20, L22 and L24 that have been experimentally found to be essential for the first steps of ribosome assembly have been compared. On the basis of their structural and dynamics properties, three categories of extensions have been identified. Each of them seems to play a distinct function. Among them, only the coil-helix transition that occurs in a phylogenetically conserved cluster of basic residues of the L20 extension appears to be strictly required for the large subunit assembly in eubacteria. The role of alpha helix-coil transitions in 23 S RNA folding is discussed in the light of the calcium binding protein calmodulin that shares many structural and dynamics properties with L20.
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