Elucidation of pathways of ribosomal RNA degradation: An essential role for RNase E

Shaheen Sulthana, Georgeta N. Basturea, Murray P. Deutscher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Although normally stable in growing cells, ribosomal RNAs are degraded under conditions of stress, such as starvation, and in response to misassembled or otherwise defective ribosomes in a process termed RNA quality control. Previously, our laboratory found that large fragments of 16S and 23S rRNA accumulate in strains lacking the processive exoribonucleases RNase II, RNase R, and PNPase, implicating these enzymes in the later steps of rRNA breakdown. Here, we define the pathways of rRNA degradation in the quality control process and during starvation, and show that the essential endoribonuclease, RNase E, is required to make the initial cleavages in both degradative processes. We also present evidence that explains why the exoribonuclease, RNase PH, is required to initiate the degradation of rRNA during starvation. The data presented here provide the first detailed description of rRNA degradation in bacterial cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1171
Number of pages9
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2016


  • 16S rRNA
  • 23S rRNA
  • Ribonuclease
  • Ribosome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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