Bacterial ribosomal proteins (r-proteins) encoded by nonessential genes often carry out very important tasks in translation. In particular, this is the case of a small basic bacteria-specific r-protein L31 (bL31). Recent studies revealed a crucial role of bL31 in formation of the protein-protein intersubunit bridge B1b and hence its contribution to ribosome dynamics. Our goal was to study in vivo regulation of the rpmE operon encoding bL31. We used a previously developed approach based on chromosomally integrated fusions with the lacZ reporter. E. coli rpmE is transcribed from two promoter regions, and translation of both mRNA transcripts was shown to be feedback regulated by bL31, indicating that the autogenous operator is located within the shorter transcript. The bL31-mediated control of rpmE is gene-specific, as no regulation was found for rpmE-unrelated reporters. Thus, bL31, as many other r-proteins, possesses dual activity in living cells, acting both as an integral ribosome component and an autogenous repressor. Phylogenetic studies revealed the presence of a highly conserved stem-loop structure in the rpmE 5'UTR, a presumable translational operator targeted by bL31, which was further confirmed by site-directed mutagenesis. This stable operator stem-loop separates an AU-rich translational enhancer from a Shine-Dalgarno element, which is a rare case of a noncontiguous translation initiation region. Sequence/structure computational approaches classify bL31 as an RNA-binding protein, consistent with its repressor function discovered here. Mutational analysis of bL31 showed that its unstructured amino-terminal part enriched in lysine is necessary for the repressor activity.
Keywords: YkgM; autogenous regulation; bL31; gene expression; intersubunit bridge B1b; phylogenetic conservation; ribosomal proteins.
© 2020 Aseev et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society.