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Cell. 2006 Apr 7;125(1):71-84.

An RNA sensor for intracellular Mg(2+).

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, Campus Box 8230, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Most RNA molecules require Mg(2+) for their structure and enzymatic properties. Here we report the first example of an RNA serving as sensor for cytoplasmic Mg(2+). We establish that expression of the Mg(2+) transporter MgtA of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium is controlled by its 5' untranslated region (5'UTR). We show that the 5'UTR of the mgtA gene can adopt different stem-loop structures depending on the Mg(2+) levels, which determine whether transcription reads through into the mgtA coding region or stops within the 5'UTR. We could recapitulate the Mg(2+)-regulated transcription using a defined in vitro transcription system with RNA polymerase as the only protein component. The initiation of mgtA transcription responds to extracytoplasmic Mg(2+) and its elongation into the coding region to cytoplasmic Mg(2+), providing a singular example in which the same ligand is sensed in different cellular compartments to regulate disparate steps in gene transcription.

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