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Small RNA regulators and the bacterial response to stress.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Recent studies have uncovered dozens of regulatory small RNAs in bacteria. A large number of these small RNAs act by pairing to their target mRNAs. The outcome of pairing can be either stimulation or inhibition of translation. Pairing in vivo frequently depends on the RNA-binding protein Hfq. Synthesis of these small RNAs is tightly regulated at the level of transcription; many of the well-studied stress response regulons have now been found to include a regulatory RNA. Expression of the small RNA can help the cell cope with environmental stress by redirecting cellular metabolism, exemplified by RyhB, a small RNA expressed upon iron starvation. Although small RNAs found in Escherichia coli can usually be identified by sequence comparison to closely related enterobacteria, other approaches are necessary to find the equivalent RNAs in other bacterial species. Nonetheless, it is becoming increasingly clear that many if not all bacteria encode significant numbers of these important regulators. Tracing their evolution through bacterial genomes remains a challenge.

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