A great diversity of small, non-coding RNA (ncRNA) molecules with roles in gene regulation and RNA processing have been intensely studied in eukaryotic and bacterial model organisms, yet our knowledge of possible parallel roles for small RNAs (sRNA) in archaea is limited. We employed RNA-seq to identify novel sRNA across multiple species of the hyperthermophilic genus Pyrobaculum, known for unusual RNA gene characteristics. By comparing transcriptional data collected in parallel among four species, we were able to identify conserved RNA genes fitting into known and novel families. Among our findings, we highlight three novel cis-antisense sRNAs encoded opposite to key regulatory (ferric uptake regulator), metabolic (triose-phosphate isomerase), and core transcriptional apparatus genes (transcription factor B). We also found a large increase in the number of conserved C/D box sRNA genes over what had been previously recognized; many of these genes are encoded antisense to protein coding genes. The conserved opposition to orthologous genes across the Pyrobaculum genus suggests similarities to other cis-antisense regulatory systems. Furthermore, the genus-specific nature of these sRNAs indicates they are relatively recent, stable adaptations.
Keywords: C/D box small RNA; antisense small RNA; archaea; comparative genomics; gene regulation; transcriptome sequencing.