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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Jan;55(2):469-81.

Identification of novel non-coding RNAs as potential antisense regulators in the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus.

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Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine, University Sains Malaysia Health Campus, 16150 Kubang Kerian, Kelatan, Malaysia.


By generating a specialized cDNA library from the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus, we have identified 57 novel small non-coding RNA (ncRNA) candidates and confirmed their expression by Northern blot analysis. The majority was found to belong to one of two classes, either antisense or antisense-box RNAs, where the latter only exhibit partial complementarity to RNA targets. The most prominent group of antisense RNAs is transcribed in the opposite orientation to the transposase genes, encoded by insertion elements (transposons). Thus, these antisense RNAs may regulate transposition of insertion elements by inhibiting expression of the transposase mRNA. Surprisingly, the class of antisense RNAs also contained RNAs complementary to tRNAs or sRNAs (small-nucleolar-like RNAs). For the antisense-box ncRNAs, the majority could be assigned to the class of C/D sRNAs, which specify 2'-O-methylation sites on rRNAs or tRNAs. Five C/D sRNAs of this group are predicted to target methylation at six sites in 13 different tRNAs, thus pointing to the widespread role of these sRNA species in tRNA modification in Archaea. Another group of antisense-box RNAs, lacking typical C/D sRNA motifs, was predicted to target the 3'-untranslated regions of certain mRNAs. Furthermore, one of the ncRNAs that does not show antisense elements is transcribed from a repeat unit of a cluster of small regularly spaced repeats in S. solfataricus which is potentially involved in replicon partitioning. In conclusion, this is the first report of stably expressed antisense RNAs in an archaeal species and it raises the prospect that antisense-based mechanisms are also used widely in Archaea to regulate gene expression.

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