Background: ERA (Escherichia coli Ras-like protein) is an E. coli GTP binding protein that is essential for proliferation. A DNA database search suggests that homologous sequences with ERA exist in various organisms including human, mouse, Drosophila, Caenorhabditis elegans and Antirrhinum majus. However, the physiological function of eukaryotic ERA-like proteins is not known.
Results: We have cloned cDNAs encoding the entire coding region of a human homologue (H-ERA) and a mouse homologue (M-ERA) of ERA. The mammalian homologue of ERA consists of a typical GTPase/GTP-binding domain and a putative K homology (KH) domain, which is known as an RNA binding domain. We performed transfection experiments with wild-type H-ERA or various H-ERA mutants. H-ERA possessing the amino acid substitution mutation into the GTPase domain induced apoptosis of HeLa cells, which was blocked by Bcl-2 expression. Deletion of the C-terminus, which contains a part of the KH domain, alleviated apoptosis by the H-ERA mutant, suggesting the importance of this domain in the function of H-ERA. We have also shown the RNA binding activity of H-ERA by pull-down experiments using RNA homopolymer immobilized on beads or recombinant H-ERA proteins.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that H-ERA plays an important role in the regulation of apoptotic signalling with its GTPase/GTP binding domain.