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RNA. 2001 Dec;7(12):1708-16.

Increased sensitivity to protein synthesis inhibitors in cells lacking tmRNA.

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  • 1Instituto de Bioquímica Vegetal y Fotosíntesis, Universidad de Sevilla-CSIC, Americo Vespucio s/n, Sevilla, Spain.


tmRNA (also known as SsrA or 10Sa RNA) is involved in a trans-translation reaction that contributes to the recycling of stalled ribosomes at the 3' end of an mRNA lacking a stop codon or at an internal mRNA cluster of rare codons. Inactivation of the ssrA gene in most bacteria results in viable cells bearing subtle phenotypes, such as temperature-sensitive growth. Herein, we report on the functional characterization of the ssrA gene in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. strain PCC6803. Deletion of the ssrA gene in Synechocystis resulted in viable cells with a growth rate identical to wild-type cells. However, null ssrA cells (deltassrA) were not viable in the presence of the protein synthesis inhibitors chloramphenicol, lincomycin, spiramycin, tylosin, erythromycin, and spectinomycin at low doses that do not significantly affect the growth of wild-type cells. Sensitivity of deltassrA cells similar to wild-type cells was observed with kasugamycin, fusidic acid, thiostrepton, and puromycin. Antibiotics unrelated to protein synthesis, such as ampicillin or rifampicin, had no differential effect on the deltassrA strain. Furthermore, deletion of the ssrA gene is sufficient to impair global protein synthesis when chloramphenicol is added at sublethal concentrations for the wild-type strain. These results indicate that ribosomes stalled by some protein synthesis inhibitors can be recycled by tmRNA. In addition, this suggests that the first elongation cycle with tmRNA, which incorporates a noncoded alanine on the growing peptide chain, may have mechanistic differences with the normal elongation cycles that bypasses the block produced by these specific antibiotics. tmRNA inactivation could be an useful therapeutic target to increase the sensitivity of pathogenic bacteria against antibiotics.

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