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

Processing of the leader mRNA plays a major role in the induction of thrS expression following threonine starvation in Bacillus subtilis.

PMID 8692931


The threonyl-tRNA synthetase gene, thrS, is a member of a family of Gram-positive genes that are induced following starvation for the corresponding amino acid by a transcriptional antitermination mechanism involving the cognate uncharged tRNA. Here we show that an additional level of complexity exists in the control of the thrS gene with the mapping of an mRNA processing site just upstream of the transcription terminator in the thrS leader region. The processed RNA is significantly more stable than the full-length transcript. Under nonstarvation conditions, or following starvation for an amino acid other than threonine, the full-length thrS mRNA is more abundant than the processed transcript. However, following starvation for threonine, the thrS mRNA exists primarily in its cleaved form. This can partly be attributed to an increased processing efficiency following threonine starvation, and partly to a further, nonspecific increase in the stability of the processed transcript under starvation conditions. The increased stability of the processed RNA contributes significantly to the levels of functional RNA observed under threonine starvation conditions, previously attributed solely to antitermination. Finally, we show that processing is likely to occur upstream of the terminator in the leader regions of at least four other genes of this family, suggesting a widespread conservation of this phenomenon in their control.

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