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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Apr 2;99(7):4620-5. Epub 2002 Mar 26.

A small RNA regulates the expression of genes involved in iron metabolism in Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, Building 37, Room 5132, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


A small RNA, RyhB, was found as part of a genomewide search for novel small RNAs in Escherichia coli. The RyhB 90-nt RNA down-regulates a set of iron-storage and iron-using proteins when iron is limiting; it is itself negatively regulated by the ferric uptake repressor protein, Fur (Ferric uptake regulator). RyhB RNA levels are inversely correlated with mRNA levels for the sdhCDAB operon, encoding succinate dehydrogenase, as well as five other genes previously shown to be positively regulated by Fur by an unknown mechanism. These include two other genes encoding enzymes in the tricarboxylic acid cycle, acnA and fumA, two ferritin genes, ftnA and bfr, and a gene for superoxide dismutase, sodB. Fur positive regulation of all these genes is fully reversed in an ryhB mutant. Our results explain the previously observed inability of fur mutants to grow on succinate. RyhB requires the RNA-binding protein, Hfq, for activity. Sequences within RyhB are complementary to regions within each of the target genes, suggesting that RyhB acts as an antisense RNA. In sdhCDAB, the complementary region is at the end of the first gene of the sdhCDAB operon; full-length sdhCDAB message disappears and a truncated message, equivalent in size to the region upstream of the complementarity, is detected when RyhB is expressed. RyhB provides a mechanism for the cell to down-regulate iron-storage proteins and nonessential iron-containing proteins when iron is limiting, thus modulating intracellular iron usage to supplement mechanisms for iron uptake directly regulated by Fur.

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