PLoS Biology, 2008, Vol.6(3), p.e64
Small noncoding RNAs (sRNA) can function as posttranscriptional activators of gene expression to regulate stress responses and metabolism. We here describe the mechanisms by which two sRNAs, GlmY and GlmZ, activate the Escherichia coli glmS mRNA, coding for an essential enzyme in amino-sugar metabolism. The two sRNAs, although being highly similar in sequence and structure, act in a hierarchical manner. GlmZ, together with the RNA chaperone, Hfq, directly activates glmS mRNA translation by an anti-antisense mechanism. In contrast, GlmY acts upstream of GlmZ and positively regulates glmS by antagonizing GlmZ RNA inactivation. We also report the first example, to our knowledge, of mRNA expression being controlled by the poly(A) status of a chromosomally encoded sRNA. We show that in wild-type cells, GlmY RNA is unstable due to 3′ end polyadenylation; whereas in an E. coli pcnB mutant defective in RNA polyadenylation, GlmY is stabilized and accumulates, which in turn stabilizes GlmZ and causes GlmS overproduction. Our study reveals hierarchical action of two well-conserved sRNAs in a complex regulatory cascade that controls the glmS mRNA. Similar cascades of noncoding RNA regulators may operate in other organisms. ; Hierarchical action of regulators is a fundamental principle in gene expression control, and is well understood in protein-based signaling pathways. We have discovered that small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs), a new class of gene expression regulators, can also act hierarchically and form a regulatory cascade. Two highly similar sRNAs function after transcription to activate the mRNA, which codes for an essential function in amino-sugar metabolism. It is somewhat unusual for two sRNAs to act upon the same target mRNA, and despite their seeming homology, these two sRNAs (GlmY and GlmZ) employ different molecular mechanisms and function hierarchically to activate expression: GlmZ directly activates translation via disruption of an mRNA structure that inhibits translation, whereas GlmY controls the processing of GlmZ to prevent the inactivation of this direct activator. We also found that GlmY is itself controlled by an RNA processing event (3′ end polyadenylation), which typically destabilizes bacterial RNA. Our data unequivocally demonstrate that is exceptionally dependent on RNA-based mechanisms for its genetic control. Given the large number of noncoding RNAs of unknown function, we believe that similar regulatory RNA cascades may operate in other organisms. ; A regulatory RNA cascade that posttranscriptionally activates the mRNA is identified, with two highly similar small noncoding RNAs acting hierarchically in a manner thus far known only in protein-based regulatory circuits.
Research Article ; Biochemistry ; Genetics And Genomics ; Molecular Biology