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EMBO J. 2000 Jul 17;19(14):3762-9.

SsrA-mediated tagging and proteolysis of LacI and its role in the regulation of lac operon.

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  • 1Division of Biological Science, Graduate School of Science, Nagoya University, Chikusa, Nagoya 464-8602, Japan.


SsrA RNA of Escherichia coli, also known as 10Sa RNA or tmRNA, acts both as tRNA and mRNA when ribosomes are paused at the 3' end of an mRNA lacking a stop codon. This process, referred to as trans-translation, leads to the addition of a short peptide tag to the C-terminus of the incomplete nascent polypeptide. The tagged polypeptide is then degraded by C-terminal-specific proteases. Here, we focused on endogenous targets for the SsrA system and on a potential regulatory role of SsrA RNA. First, we show that trans-translation events occur frequently in normally growing E. COLI: cells. More specifically, we report that the lacI mRNA encoding Lac repressor (LacI) is a specific natural target for trans-translation. The binding of LacI to the lac operators results in truncated lacI mRNAs that are, in turn, recognized by the SsrA system. The SsrA-mediated tagging and proteolysis of LacI appears to play a role in cellular adaptation to lactose availability by supporting a rapid induction of lac operon expression.

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