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J Bacteriol. 2005 Oct;187(19):6641-50.

Small untranslated RNA antitoxin in Bacillus subtilis.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, The Biological Laboratories, 16 Divinity Ave., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules are pairs of genes in which one member encodes a toxin that is neutralized or whose synthesis is prevented by the action of the product of the second gene, an antitoxin, which is either protein or RNA. We now report the identification of a TA module in the chromosome of Bacillus subtilis in which the antitoxin is an antisense RNA. The antitoxin, which is called RatA (for RNA antitoxin A), is a small (222 nucleotides), untranslated RNA that blocks the accumulation of the mRNA for a toxic peptide TxpA (for toxic peptide A; formerly YqdB). The txpA and ratA genes are in convergent orientation and overlap by ca. 75 nucleotides, such that the 3' region of ratA is complementary to the 3' region of txpA. Deletion of ratA led to increased levels of txpA mRNA and lysis of the cells. Overexpression of txpA also caused cell lysis and death, a phenotype that was prevented by simultaneous overexpression of ratA. We propose that the ratA transcript is an antisense RNA that anneals to the 3' end of the txpA mRNA, thereby triggering its degradation.

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