RNA editing in bacteria: occurrence, regulation and significance

RNA Biol. 2018;15(7):863-867. doi: 10.1080/15476286.2018.1481698. Epub 2018 Aug 2.


DNA harbors the blueprint for life. However, the instructions stored in the DNA could be altered at the RNA level before they are executed. One of these processes is RNA editing, which was shown to modify RNA sequences in many organisms. The most abundant modification is the deamination of adenosine (A) into inosine (I). In turn, inosine can be identified as a guanosine (G) by the ribosome and other cellular machineries such as reverse transcriptase. In multicellular organisms, enzymes from the ADAR (adenosine deaminase acting on RNA) family mediate RNA editing in mRNA, whereas enzymes from the ADAT family mediate A-to-I editing on tRNAs. In bacteria however, until recently, only one editing site was described, in tRNAArg, but never in mRNA. The tRNA site was shown to be modified by tadA (tRNA specific adenosine deaminase) which is believed to be the ancestral enzyme for the RNA editing family of enzymes. In our recent work, we have shown for the first time, editing on multiple sites in bacterial mRNAs and identified tadA as the enzyme responsible for this editing activity. Focusing on one of the identified targets - the self-killing toxin hokB, we found that editing is physiologically regulated and that it increases protein activity. Here we discuss possible modes of regulation on hokB editing, potential roles of RNA editing in bacteria, possible implications, and future research directions.

Keywords: ADAR; ADAT; RNA editing; antibiotic tolerance; bacteria; hokB; non-genetic variation; persistence; tadA; toxin-antitoxin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / genetics
  • Adenosine Deaminase / physiology*
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism
  • Deamination / physiology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / physiology
  • Inosine / genetics
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae / enzymology*
  • RNA Editing / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism
  • Toxin-Antitoxin Systems / physiology
  • Yersinia enterocolitica / enzymology*


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Inosine
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Adenosine Deaminase
  • Adenosine

Grant support

This work was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF-1332/14); the Gruss Lipper Post Doctoral Fellowship; Minerva Center (AZ 5746940763).