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PLoS Genet. 2014 Jan;10(1):e1004026. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004026. Epub 2014 Jan 2.

Translation enhancing ACA motifs and their silencing by a bacterial small regulatory RNA.

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Centre de Génétique Moléculaire du CNRS, Associé à l'Université Paris-Sud, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.


GcvB is an archetypal multi-target small RNA regulator of genes involved in amino acid uptake or metabolism in enteric bacteria. Included in the GcvB regulon is the yifK locus, encoding a conserved putative amino acid transporter. GcvB inhibits yifK mRNA translation by pairing with a sequence immediately upstream from the Shine-Dalgarno motif. Surprisingly, we found that some target sequence mutations that disrupt pairing, and thus were expected to relieve repression, actually lower yifK expression and cause it not to respond to GcvB variants carrying the corresponding compensatory changes. Work prompted by these observations revealed that the GcvB target sequence in yifK mRNA includes elements that stimulate translation initiation. Replacing each base of an ACA trinucleotide near the center of the target sequence, by any other base, caused yifK expression to decrease. Effects were additive, with some triple replacements causing up to a 90% reduction. The enhancer activity did not require the ACA motif to be strictly positioned relative to the Shine-Dalgarno sequence, nor did it depend on a particular spacing between the latter and the initiating AUG. The dppA mRNA, another GcvB target, contains four ACA motifs at the target site. Quite strikingly, replacement of all four ACAs by random trinucleotide sequences yielded variants showing over 100-fold reduction in expression, virtually inactivating the gene. Altogether, these data identify the ACA motif as a translation-enhancing module and show that GcvB's ability to antagonize the enhancer function in target mRNAs is quintessential to the regulatory effectiveness of this sRNA.

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