RNase II, a 3′ to 5′ processive exoribonuclease, is the major hydrolytic enzyme in Escherichia coli accounting for ∼90% of the total activity. Despite its importance, little is actually known about regulation of this enzyme. We show here that one residue, Lys501, is acetylated in RNase II. This modification, reversibly controlled by the acetyltransferase Pka, and the deacetylase CobB, affects binding of the substrate and thus decreases the catalytic activity of RNase II. As a consequence, the steady-state level of target RNAs of RNase II may be altered in the cells. We also find that under conditions of slowed growth, the acetylation level of RNase II is elevated and the activity of RNase II decreases, emphasizing the importance of this regulatory process. These findings indicate that acetylation can regulate the activity of a bacterial ribonuclease.
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