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RNA. 2012 Mar;18(3):530-46. doi: 10.1261/rna.027359.111. Epub 2012 Jan 24.

Identification of 88 regulatory small RNAs in the TIGR4 strain of the human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae.

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Unidad de Patología Molecular del Neumococo, Centro Nacional de Microbiología, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, 28220 Majadahonda, Madrid, Spain.


Streptococcus pneumoniae is the main etiological agent of community-acquired pneumonia and a major cause of mortality and morbidity among children and the elderly. Genome sequencing of several pneumococcal strains revealed valuable information about the potential proteins and genetic diversity of this prevalent human pathogen. However, little is known about its transcriptional regulation and its small regulatory noncoding RNAs. In this study, we performed deep sequencing of the S. pneumoniae TIGR4 strain RNome to identify small regulatory RNA candidates expressed in this pathogen. We discovered 1047 potential small RNAs including intragenic, 5'- and/or 3'-overlapping RNAs and 88 small RNAs encoded in intergenic regions. With this approach, we recovered many of the previously identified intergenic small RNAs and identified 68 novel candidates, most of which are conserved in both sequence and genomic context in other S. pneumoniae strains. We confirmed the independent expression of 17 intergenic small RNAs and predicted putative mRNA targets for six of them using bioinformatics tools. Preliminary results suggest that one of these six is a key player in the regulation of competence development. This study is the biggest catalog of small noncoding RNAs reported to date in S. pneumoniae and provides a highly complete view of the small RNA network in this pathogen.

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