Understanding RNA processing and turnover requires knowledge of cleavages by major endoribonucleases within a living cell. We have employed TIER-seq (transiently inactivating an endoribonuclease followed by RNA-seq) to profile cleavage products of the essential endoribonuclease RNase E in Salmonella enterica. A dominating cleavage signature is the location of a uridine two nucleotides downstream in a single-stranded segment, which we rationalize structurally as a key recognition determinant that may favor RNase E catalysis. Our results suggest a prominent biogenesis pathway for bacterial regulatory small RNAs whereby RNase E acts together with the RNA chaperone Hfq to liberate stable 3' fragments from various precursor RNAs. Recapitulating this process in vitro, Hfq guides RNase E cleavage of a representative small-RNA precursor for interaction with a mRNA target. In vivo, the processing is required for target regulation. Our findings reveal a general maturation mechanism for a major class of post-transcriptional regulators.
Keywords: 3′ UTR; ArcZ; Hfq; RNA degradome; RNase E; RprA; TIER-seq; non-coding RNA; sRNA maturation; uridine ruler.
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