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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Mar 2;101(9):2747-51. Epub 2004 Feb 19.

Recycling of a regulatory protein by degradation of the RNA to which it binds.

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Department of Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University, New York, NY 10029, USA.


When Bacillus subtilis is grown in the presence of excess tryptophan, transcription of the trp operon is regulated by binding of tryptophan-activated TRAP to trp leader RNA, which promotes transcription termination in the trp leader region. Transcriptome analysis of a B. subtilis strain lacking polynucleotide phosphorylase (PNPase; a 3'-to-5' exoribonuclease) revealed a striking overexpression of trp operon structural genes when the strain was grown in the presence of abundant tryptophan. Analysis of trp leader RNA in the PNPase(-) strain showed accumulation of a stable, TRAP-protected fragment of trp leader RNA. Loss of trp operon transcriptional regulation in the PNPase(-) strain was due to the inability of ribonucleases other than PNPase to degrade TRAP-bound leader RNA, resulting in the sequestration of limiting TRAP. Thus, in the case of the B. subtilis trp operon, specific ribonuclease degradation of RNA in an RNA-protein complex is required for recycling of an RNA-binding protein. Such a mechanism may be relevant to other systems in which limiting concentrations of an RNA-binding protein must keep pace with ongoing transcription.

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