Characterization of the Escherichia coli RNA 3'-terminal phosphate cyclase and its sigma54-regulated operon

J Biol Chem. 1998 Sep 25;273(39):25516-26. doi: 10.1074/jbc.273.39.25516.


The RNA 3'-terminal phosphate cyclase catalyzes the ATP-dependent conversion of the 3'-phosphate to the 2',3'-cyclic phosphodiester at the end of various RNA substrates. Recent cloning of a cDNA encoding the human cyclase indicated that genes encoding cyclase-like proteins are conserved among Eucarya, Bacteria, and Archaea. The protein encoded by the Escherichia coli gene was overexpressed and shown to have the RNA 3'-phosphate cyclase activity (Genschik, P., Billy, E., Swianiewicz, M., and Filipowicz, W. (1997) EMBO J. 16, 2955-2967). Analysis of the requirements and substrate specificity of the E. coli protein, presented in this work, demonstrates that properties of the bacterial and human enzymes are similar. ATP is the best cofactor (Km = 20 microM), whereas GTP (Km = 100 microM) and other nucleoside triphosphates (NTPs) act less efficiently. The enzyme undergoes nucleotidylation in the presence of [alpha-32P]ATP and, to a lesser extent, also in the presence of other NTPs. Comparison of 3'-phosphorylated oligoribonucleotides and oligodeoxyribonucleotides of identical sequence demonstrated that the latter are at least 300-fold poorer substrates for the enzyme. The E. coli cyclase gene, named rtcA, forms part of an uncharacterized operon containing two additional open reading frames (ORFs). The ORF positioned immediately upstream, named rtcB, encodes a protein that is also highly conserved between Eucarya, Bacteria, and Archaea. Another ORF, called rtcR, is positioned upstream of the rtcA/rtcB unit and is transcribed in the opposite direction. It encodes a protein having features of sigma54-dependent regulators. By overexpressing the N-terminally truncated form of RtcR, we demonstrate that this regulator indeed controls expression of rtcA and rtcB in a sigma54-dependent manner. Also consistent with the involvement of sigma54, the region upstream of the transcription start site of the rtcA/rtcB mRNA contains the -12 and -24 elements, TTGCA and TGGCA, respectively, characteristic of sigma54-dependent promoters. The cyclase gene is nonessential as demonstrated by knockout experiments. Possible functions of the cyclase in RNA metabolism are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics*
  • Ligases / genetics
  • Ligases / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Operon*
  • Phylogeny
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA Polymerase Sigma 54
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Sigma Factor / genetics*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Sigma Factor
  • rpoN protein, E coli
  • DNA
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases
  • RNA Polymerase Sigma 54
  • Ligases
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases
  • RtcB protein, E coli
  • RNA 3'-terminal phosphate cyclase