Degradation of mRNA in bacteria: emergence of ubiquitous features

Bioessays. 2000 Mar;22(3):235-44. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-1878(200003)22:3<235::AID-BIES5>3.0.CO;2-2.


The amount of a messenger RNA available for protein synthesis depends on the efficiency of its transcription and stability. The mechanisms of degradation that determine the stability of mRNAs in bacteria have been investigated extensively during the last decade and have begun to be better understood. Several endo- and exoribonucleases involved in the mRNA metabolism have been characterized as well as structural features of mRNA which account for its stability have been determined. The most important recent developments have been the discovery that the degradosome-a multiprotein complex containing an endoribonuclease (RNase E), an exoribonuclease (polynucleotide phosphorylase), and a DEAD box helicase (RhlB)-has a central role in mRNA degradation and that oligo(A) tails synthesized by poly(A) polymerase facilitate the degradation of mRNAs and RNA fragments. Moreover, the phosphorylation status and the base pairing of 5' extremities, together with 3' secondary structures of transcriptional terminators, contribute to the stability of primary transcripts. Degradation of mRNAs can follow several independent pathways. Interestingly, poly(A) tails and multienzyme complexes also control the stability and the degradation of eukaryotic mRNAs. These discoveries have led to the development of refined models of mRNA degradation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • RNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Ribonucleases / metabolism


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ribonucleases