Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

RNA degradosomes exist in vivo in Escherichia coli as multicomponent complexes associated with the cytoplasmic membrane via the N-terminal region of ribonuclease E.

PMID 11134527


RNase E isolated from Escherichia coli is contained in a multicomponent "degradosome" complex with other proteins implicated in RNA decay. Earlier work has shown that the C-terminal region of RNase E is a scaffold for the binding of degradosome components and has identified specific RNase E segments necessary for its interaction with polynucleotide phosphorylase (PNPase), RhlB RNA helicase, and enolase. Here, we report electron microscopy studies that use immunogold labeling and freeze-fracture methods to show that degradosomes exist in vivo in E. coli as multicomponent structures that associate with the cytoplasmic membrane via the N-terminal region of RNase E. Whereas PNPase and enolase are present in E. coli in large excess relative to RNase E and therefore are detected in cells largely as molecules unlinked to the RNase E scaffold, immunogold labeling and biochemical analyses show that helicase is present in approximately equimolar amounts to RNase E at all cell growth stages. Our findings, which establish the existence and cellular location of RNase E-based degradosomes in vivo in E. coli, also suggest that RNA processing and decay may occur at specific sites within cells.