The double-stranded transcriptome of Escherichia coli

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Feb 25;111(8):3134-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1315974111. Epub 2014 Jan 22.


Advances in high-throughput transcriptome analyses have revealed hundreds of antisense RNAs (asRNAs) for many bacteria, although few have been characterized, and the number of functional asRNAs remains unknown. We have developed a genome-wide high-throughput method to identify functional asRNAs in vivo. Most mechanisms of gene regulation via asRNAs require an RNA-RNA interaction with its target RNA, and we hypothesized that a functional asRNA would be found in a double strand (dsRNA), duplexed with its cognate RNA in a single cell. We developed a method of isolating dsRNAs from total RNA by immunoprecipitation with a ds-RNA specific antibody. Total RNA and immunoprecipitated dsRNA from Escherichia coli RNase III WT and mutant strains were deep-sequenced. A statistical model was applied to filter for biologically relevant dsRNA regions, which were subsequently categorized by location relative to annotated genes. A total of 316 potentially functional asRNAs were identified in the RNase III mutant strain and are encoded primarily opposite to the 5' ends of transcripts, but are also found opposite ncRNAs, gene junctions, and the 3' ends. A total of 21 sense/antisense RNA pairs identified in dsRNAs were confirmed by Northern blot analyses. Most of the RNA steady-state levels were higher or detectable only in the RNase III mutant strain. Taken together, our data indicate that a significant amount of dsRNA is formed in the cell, that RNase III degrades or processes these dsRNAs, and that dsRNA plays a major role in gene regulation in E. coli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Northern
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Gene Library
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods*
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • Models, Statistical
  • RNA, Antisense / genetics*
  • RNA, Antisense / metabolism
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / genetics*
  • Ribonuclease III / genetics
  • Ribonuclease III / metabolism
  • Transcriptome / genetics*


  • RNA, Antisense
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • Ribonuclease III

Associated data

  • SRA/SRX326842
  • SRA/SRX326852
  • SRA/SRX326853
  • SRA/SRX326854