Maturation of 23S ribosomal RNA requires the exoribonuclease RNase T

Zhongwei Li, Shilpa Pandit, Murray P. Deutscher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Ribosomal RNAs are generally synthesized as long, primary transcripts that must be extensively processed to generate the mature, functional species. In Escherichia coli, it is known that the initial 30S precursor is cleaved during its synthesis by the endonuclease RNase III to generate precursors to the 16S, 23S, and 5S rRNAs. However, despite extensive study, the processes by which these intermediate products are converted to their mature forms are poorly understood. In this article, we describe the maturation of 23S rRNA. Based on Northern analysis of RNA isolated from a variety of mutant strains lacking one or multiple ribonucleases, we show that maturation of the 3' terminus requires the action of RNase T, an enzyme previously implicated in the end turnover of tRNA and in the maturation of small, stable RNAs. Although other exoribonucleases can participate in shortening the 3' end of the initial RNase III cleavage product, RNase T is required for removal of the last few residues. In the absence of RNase T, 23S rRNA products with extra 3' residues accumulate and are incorporated into ribosomes, with only small effects on cell growth. Purified RNase T accurately and efficiently converts these immature ribosomes to their mature forms in vitro, whereas free RNA is processed relatively poorly. In vivo, the processing defect at the 3' end has no effect on 5' maturation, indicating that the latter process proceeds independently. We also find that a portion of the 23S rRNA that accumulates in many RNase T- cells becomes polyadenylated because of the action of poly(A) polymerase I. The requirement for RNase T in 23S rRNA maturation is discussed in relation to a model in which only this enzyme, among the eight exoribonucleases present in E. coli, is able to efficiently remove nucleotides close to the double-stranded stem generated by the pairing of the 5' and 3' termini of most stable RNAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-146
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • 3' terminus
  • Polyadenylation
  • Ribonuclease
  • RNA processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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