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Mol Microbiol. 2003 Jan;47(1):75-88.

Ectopic RNase E sites promote bypass of 5'-end-dependent mRNA decay in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3.


In Escherichia coli, 5'-terminal stem-loops form major impediments to mRNA decay, yet conditions that determine their effectiveness or the use of alternative decay pathway(s) are unclear. A synthetic 5'-terminal hairpin stabilizes the rpsT mRNA sixfold. This stabilization is dependent on efficient translational initiation and ribosome transit through at least two-thirds of the coding sequence past a major RNase E cleavage site in the rpsT mRNA. Insertion of a 12-15 residue 'ectopic' RNase E cleavage site from either the rne leader or 9S pre-rRNA into the 5'-non-coding region of the rpsT mRNA significantly reduces the stabilizing effect of the terminal stem-loop, dependent on RNase E. A similar insertion into the rpsT coding sequence is partially destabilizing. These findings demonstrate that RNase E can bypass an interaction with the 5'-terminus, and exploit an alternative 'internal entry' pathway. We propose a model for degradation of the rpsT mRNA, which explains the hierarchy of protection afforded by different 5'-termini, the use of internal entry for bypass of barriers to decay, 'ectopic sites' and the role of translating ribosomes.

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