Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Despite its importance for RNA processing and degradation in Escherichia coli, little is known about the structure of RNase E or its mechanism of action. We have modelled the three-dimensional structure of an essential amino-terminal domain of RNase E on the basis of its sequence homology to the S1 family of RNA-binding domains. Each of the five surface-exposed aromatic residues and most of the 14 basic residues of this RNase E domain were replaced with alanine to determine their importance for RNase E function. All the surface residues essential for cell growth and feedback regulation of RNase E synthesis mapped to one end of the domain. In vitro assays indicate that these essential residues fall into two functionally distinct groups that form discrete clusters on opposite faces of the S1 domain. One group, comprising Phe-57, Phe-67 and Tyr-112, is of general importance for the ribonuclease activity of RNase E, whereas the other group, comprising Lys-37 and Tyr-60, is entirely dispensable for catalytic activity in vitro. The side-chains of two residues previously identified as sites of temperature-sensitive mutations lie buried directly beneath the surface region defined by Phe-57, Phe-67 and Tyr-112, which probably enhances RNase E activity by making a crucial contribution to the binding of substrate RNAs. In contrast to the S1 domain, an arginine-rich RNA-binding domain in the carboxyl half of RNase E appears to have a more peripheral role in RNase E function, as it is not required for feedback regulation, cell growth or ribonuclease activity.
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