The alarmone nucleotides guanosine pentaphosphate (pppGpp) and tetraphosphate (ppGpp), collectively referred to as (p)ppGpp, are key regulators of bacterial growth, stress adaptation, antibiotic tolerance and pathogenicity. We have recently shown that the Small Alarmone Synthetase (SAS) RelQ from the Gram-positive pathogen Enterococcus faecalis has an RNA-binding activity (Beljantseva et al. 2017). RelQ's activities as an enzyme and as an RNA-binding protein are mutually incompatible: binding of single-stranded RNA potently inhibits (p)ppGpp synthesis in a sequence-specific manner, and RelQ's enzymatic activity destabilizes the RNA:RelQ complex. RelQ's allosteric regulator, pppGpp, destabilizes RNA binding and activates RelQ's enzymatic activity. Since SAS enzymes are widely distributed in bacteria, and, as has been discovered recently, are also mobilized by phages (Dedrick et al. 2017), RNA binding to SASs could be a widespread mechanism. The initial discovery raises numerous questions regarding RNA-binding function of the SAS enzymes: What is the molecular mechanism underlying the incompatibility of RNA:SAS complex formation with pppGpp binding and (p)ppGpp synthesis? What are the RNA targets in living cells? What is the regulatory output of the system - (p)ppGpp synthesis, modulation of RNA structure and function, or both?
Keywords: CsrA; Hfq; RNA; RNA-binding protein; RSH; RelQ; SAS; nucleotide; ppGpp; stringent response.