mRNA degradation and maturation in prokaryotes: the global players

Soumaya Laalami 1  and Harald Putzer 1
  • 1 CNRS UPR 9073, affiliated with Univ Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, 13 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, F-75005 Paris, France


The degradation of messenger RNA is of universal importance for controlling gene expression. It directly affects protein synthesis by modulating the amount of mRNA available for translation. Regulation of mRNA decay provides an efficient means to produce just the proteins needed and to rapidly alter patterns of protein synthesis. In bacteria, the half-lives of individual mRNAs can differ by as much as two orders of magnitude, ranging from seconds to an hour. Most of what we know today about the diverse mechanisms of mRNA decay and maturation in prokaryotes comes from studies of the two model organisms Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis. Their evolutionary distance provided a large picture of potential pathways and enzymes involved in mRNA turnover. Among them are three ribonucleases, two of which have been discovered only recently, which have a truly general role in the initiating events of mRNA degradation: RNase E, RNase J and RNase Y. Their enzymatic characteristics probably determine the strategies of mRNA metabolism in the organism in which they are present. These ribonucleases are coded, alone or in various combinations, in all prokaryotic genomes, thus reflecting how mRNA turnover has been adapted to different ecological niches throughout evolution.

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BioMolecular Concepts is a peer-reviewed journal fostering the integration of different fields of biomolecular research. The journal provides expert summaries and conclusive extensions of research data leading to new and original, testable hypotheses. Aspects of research that can promote related fields and lead to novel insight into biological mechanisms are of special interest.