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Hfq affects mRNA levels independently of degradation

Jacques Le Derout1, Irina V Boni2, Philippe Régnier1 and Eliane Hajnsdorf1*

Author Affiliations

1 UPR CNRS n° 9073, conventionnée avec l'Université Paris 7 - Denis Diderot Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, 13 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75005 Paris, France

2 Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, 117997 Moscow, Russia

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BMC Molecular Biology 2010, 11:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-11-17

Published: 18 February 2010



The bacterial Lsm protein, Hfq, is an RNA chaperone involved in many reactions related to RNA metabolism, such as replication and stability, control of small RNA activity and polyadenylation. Despite this wide spectrum of known functions, the global role of Hfq is almost certainly undervalued; its capacity to bind DNA and to interact with many other proteins are only now beginning to be taken into account.


The role of Hfq in the maturation and degradation of the rpsO mRNA of E. coli was investigated in vivo. The data revealed a decrease in rpsO mRNA abundance concomitant to an increase in its stability when Hfq is absent. This indicates that the change in mRNA levels in hfq mutants does not result from its modification of RNA stability. Moreover, a series of independent experiments have revealed that the decrease in mRNA level is not a consequence of a reduction of translation efficiency and that Hfq is not directly implicated in translational control of rpsO expression. Reduced steady-state mRNA levels in the absence of Hfq were also shown for rpsT, rpsB and rpsB-tsf, but not for lpp, pnp or tRNA transcripts. The abundance of chimeric transcripts rpsO-lacZ and rpsB-lacZ, whose expression was driven by rpsO and rpsB promoters, respectively, was also lower in the hfq null-mutants, while the β-galactosidase yield remained about the same as in the parent wild-type strain.


The data obtained suggest that alteration of rpsO, rpsT and rpsB-tsf transcript levels observed under conditions of Hfq deficiency is not caused by the post-transcriptional events, such as mRNA destabilization or changes in translation control, and may rather result from changes in transcriptional activity. So far, how Hfq affects transcription remains unclear. We propose that one of the likely mechanisms of Hfq-mediated modulation of transcription might operate early in the elongation step, when interaction of Hfq with a nascent transcript would help to overcome transcription pauses and to prevent preliminary transcript release.