Bacterial Small RNA Regulators: Versatile Roles and Rapidly Evolving Variations
Susan Gottesman1 and Gisela Storz2
1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892
2Cell Biology and Metabolism Program, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland 20892
Small RNA regulators (sRNAs) have been identified in a wide range of bacteria and found to play critical regulatory roles in many processes. The major families of sRNAs include true antisense RNAs, synthesized from the strand complementary to the mRNA they regulate, sRNAs that also act by pairing but have limited complementarity with their targets, and sRNAs that regulate proteins by binding to and affecting protein activity. The sRNAs with limited complementarity are akin to eukaryotic microRNAs in their ability to modulate the activity and stability of multiple mRNAs. In many bacterial species, the RNA chaperone Hfq is required to promote pairing between these sRNAs and their target mRNAs. Understanding the evolution of regulatory sRNAs remains a challenge; sRNA genes show evidence of duplication and horizontal transfer but also could be evolved from tRNAs, mRNAs or random transcription.
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