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Mol Microbiol. 2004 Oct;54(1):198-211.

RNase HI overproduction is required for efficient full-length RNA synthesis in the absence of topoisomerase I in Escherichia coli.

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Département de microbiologie et immunologie, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, P. Québec, Canada, H3C 3J7.


It has long been known that Escherichia coli cells deprived of topoisomerase I (topA null mutants) do not grow. Because mutations reducing DNA gyrase activity and, as a consequence, negative supercoiling, occur to compensate for the loss of topA function, it has been assumed that excessive negative supercoiling is somehow involved in the growth inhibition of topA null mutants. However, how excess negative supercoiling inhibits growth is still unknown. We have previously shown that the overproduction of RNase HI, an enzyme that degrades the RNA portion of an R-loop, can partially compensate for the growth defects because of the absence of topoisomerase I. In this article, we have studied the effects of gyrase reactivation on the physiology of actively growing topA null cells. We found that growth immediately and almost completely ceases upon gyrase reactivation, unless RNase HI is overproduced. Northern blot analysis shows that the cells have a significantly reduced ability to accumulate full-length mRNAs when RNase HI is not overproduced. Interestingly, similar phenotypes, although less severe, are also seen when bacterial cells lacking RNase HI activity are grown and treated in the same way. All together, our results suggest that excess negative supercoiling promotes the formation of R-loops, which, in turn, inhibit RNA synthesis.

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