RNA degradosomes in bacteria and chloroplasts: classification, distribution and evolution of RNase E homologs

Mol Microbiol. 2015 Sep;97(6):1021-135. doi: 10.1111/mmi.13095. Epub 2015 Jul 22.


Ribonuclease E (RNase E) of Escherichia coli, which is the founding member of a widespread family of proteins in bacteria and chloroplasts, is a fascinating enzyme that still has not revealed all its secrets. RNase E is an essential single-strand specific endoribonuclease that is involved in the processing and degradation of nearly every transcript in E. coli. A striking enzymatic property is a preference for substrates with a 5' monophosphate end although recent work explains how RNase E can overcome the protection afforded by the 5' triphosphate end of a primary transcript. Other features of E. coli RNase E include its interaction with enzymes involved in RNA degradation to form the multienzyme RNA degradosome and its localization to the inner cytoplasmic membrane. The N-terminal catalytic core of the RNase E protomer associates to form a tetrameric holoenzyme. Each RNase E protomer has a large C-terminal intrinsically disordered (ID) noncatalytic region that contains sites for interactions with protein components of the RNA degradosome as well as RNA and phospholipid bilayers. In this review, RNase E homologs have been classified into five types based on their primary structure. A recent analysis has shown that type I RNase E in the γ-proteobacteria forms an orthologous group of proteins that has been inherited vertically. The RNase E catalytic core and a large ID noncatalytic region containing an RNA binding motif and a membrane targeting sequence are universally conserved features of these orthologs. Although the ID noncatalytic region has low composition and sequence complexity, it is possible to map microdomains, which are short linear motifs that are sites of interaction with protein and other ligands. Throughout bacteria, the composition of the multienzyme RNA degradosome varies with species, but interactions with exoribonucleases (PNPase, RNase R), glycolytic enzymes (enolase, aconitase) and RNA helicases (DEAD-box proteins, Rho) are common. Plasticity in RNA degradosome composition is due to rapid evolution of RNase E microdomains. Characterization of the RNase E-PNPase interaction in α-proteobacteria, γ-proteobacteria and cyanobacteria suggests that it arose independently several times during evolution, thus conferring an advantage in control and coordination of RNA processing and degradation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Chloroplasts / enzymology*
  • Endoribonucleases / chemistry*
  • Endoribonucleases / classification
  • Endoribonucleases / genetics*
  • Endoribonucleases / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Multienzyme Complexes / genetics*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Polyribonucleotide Nucleotidyltransferase / genetics*
  • Polyribonucleotide Nucleotidyltransferase / metabolism
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • RNA Helicases / genetics*
  • RNA Helicases / metabolism


  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • degradosome
  • Polyribonucleotide Nucleotidyltransferase
  • Endoribonucleases
  • ribonuclease E
  • RNA Helicases