In bacteria, Hfq is a core RNA chaperone that catalyzes the interaction of mRNAs with regulatory small RNAs (sRNAs). To determine in vivo RNA sequence requirements for Hfq interactions, and to study riboregulation in a bacterial pathogen, Hfq was UV crosslinked to RNAs in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC). Hfq bound repeated trinucleotide motifs of A-R-N (A-A/G-any nucleotide) often associated with the Shine-Dalgarno translation initiation sequence in mRNAs. These motifs overlapped or were adjacent to the mRNA sequences bound by sRNAs. In consequence, sRNA-mRNA duplex formation will displace Hfq, promoting recycling. Fifty-five sRNAs were identified within bacteriophage-derived regions of the EHEC genome, including some of the most abundant Hfq-interacting sRNAs. One of these (AgvB) antagonized the function of the core genome regulatory sRNA, GcvB, by mimicking its mRNA substrate sequence. This bacteriophage-encoded "anti-sRNA" provided EHEC with a growth advantage specifically in bovine rectal mucus recovered from its primary colonization site in cattle.
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