The expression of genes for cold-shock proteins is proposed to be regulated primarily at the post-transcriptional level by increase of mRNA stability after transition to low temperatures. Destabilization of the Escherichia coli cold-induced cspA transcript at 37 degrees C as well as stabilization upon cold shock is known to depend on the unusually long (159 nt) 5'-untranslated region. Determination of the cspA mRNA 5'-end from Rhodobacter capsulatus revealed a shorter distance between the start of transcription and the start codon for translation. The cspA mRNA of R. capsulatus was shown to be stabilized at low temperatures to a greater extent than other investigated transcripts. To address the mechanism of decay of the cspA transcript, it was incubated with purified degradosome of R. capsulatus. Endoribonucleolytic in vitro cleavage in the 5'-untranslated region as reported for the cspA transcript of E. coli in vivo was not observed. Instead, the data indicated that the cspA mRNA decay in R. capsulatus is mediated by endoribonucleolytic cleavages within the cspA coding region.