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J Bacteriol. 2006 Oct;188(19):6802-7.

Colocation of genes encoding a tRNA-mRNA hybrid and a putative signaling peptide on complementary strands in the genome of the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima.

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  • 1Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7905, USA.


In the genome of the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima, TM0504 encodes a putative signaling peptide implicated in population density-dependent exopolysaccharide formation. Although not noted in the original genome annotation, TM0504 was found to colocate, on the opposite strand, with the gene encoding ssrA, a hybrid of tRNA and mRNA (tmRNA), which is involved in a trans-translation process related to ribosome rescue and is ubiquitous in bacteria. Specific DNA probes were designed and used in real-time PCR assays to follow the separate transcriptional responses of the colocated open reading frames (ORFs) during transition from exponential to stationary phase, chloramphenicol challenge, and syntrophic coculture with Methanococcus jannaschii. TM0504 transcription did not vary under normal growth conditions. Transcription of the tmRNA gene, however, was significantly up-regulated during chloramphenicol challenge and in T. maritima bound in exopolysaccharide aggregates during methanogenic coculture. The significance of the colocation of ORFs encoding a putative signaling peptide and tmRNA in T. maritima is intriguing, since this overlapping arrangement (tmRNA associated with putative small ORFs) was found to be conserved in at least 181 bacterial genomes sequenced to date. Whether peptides related to TM0504 in other bacteria play a role in quorum sensing is not yet known, but their ubiquitous colocalization with respect to tmRNA merits further examination.

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