sRNA-Mediated Control of Transcription Termination in E. coli

Cell. 2016 Sep 22;167(1):111-121.e13. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.09.004.


Bacterial small RNAs (sRNAs) have been implicated in various aspects of post-transcriptional gene regulation. Here, we demonstrate that sRNAs also act at the level of transcription termination. We use the rpoS gene, which encodes a general stress sigma factor σ(S), as a model system, and show that sRNAs DsrA, ArcZ, and RprA bind the rpoS 5'UTR to suppress premature Rho-dependent transcription termination, both in vitro and in vivo. sRNA-mediated antitermination markedly stimulates transcription of rpoS during the transition to the stationary phase of growth, thereby facilitating a rapid adjustment of bacteria to global metabolic changes. Next generation RNA sequencing and bioinformatic analysis indicate that Rho functions as a global "attenuator" of transcription, acting at the 5'UTR of hundreds of bacterial genes, and that its suppression by sRNAs is a widespread mode of bacterial gene regulation.

Keywords: Rho; Transcription termination; antitermination; sRNA; sigma factor; stress response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • RNA, Small Untranslated / metabolism*
  • Sigma Factor / metabolism*
  • Transcription Termination, Genetic*


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DsrA RNA, E coli
  • RNA, Small Untranslated
  • Sigma Factor
  • sigma factor KatF protein, Bacteria