Small RNAs in bacteria and archaea: who they are, what they do, and how they do it

Adv Genet. 2015;90:133-208. doi: 10.1016/bs.adgen.2015.05.001. Epub 2015 Jul 3.


Small RNAs are ubiquitously present regulators in all kingdoms of life. Most bacterial and archaeal small RNAs (sRNAs) act by antisense mechanisms on multiple target mRNAs, thereby globally affecting essentially any conceivable trait-stress responses, adaptive metabolic changes, virulence etc. The sRNAs display many distinct mechanisms of action, most of them through effects on target mRNA translation and/or stability, and helper proteins like Hfq often play key roles. Recent data highlight the interplay between posttranscriptional control by sRNAs and transcription factor-mediated transcriptional control, and cross talk through mutual regulation of regulators. Based on the properties that distinguish sRNA-type from transcription factors-type control, we begin to glimpse why sRNAs have evolved as a second, essential layer of gene regulation. This review will discuss the prevalence of sRNAs, who they are, what biological roles they play, and how they carry out their functions.

Keywords: Antisense RNA; Hfq; Interconnected networks; Posttranscriptional regulation; RNA sponges; Regulatory RNA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Host Factor 1 Protein / metabolism
  • RNA, Archaeal / metabolism
  • RNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Untranslated / metabolism*


  • Host Factor 1 Protein
  • RNA, Archaeal
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Small Untranslated