NanoRNAs are RNA fragments 2 to 5 nucleotides in length that are generated as byproducts of RNA degradation and abortive transcription initiation. Cells have specialized enzymes to degrade nanoRNAs, such as the DHH phosphoesterase family member NanoRNase A (NrnA). This enzyme was originally identified as a 3′ → 5′ exonuclease, but we show here that NrnA is bidirectional, degrading 2-5 nucleotide long RNA oligomers from the 3′ end, and longer RNA substrates from the 5′ end. The crystal structure of Bacillus subtilis NrnA reveals a dynamic bi-lobal architecture, with the catalytic N-terminal DHH domain linked to the substrate binding C-terminal DHHA1 domain via an extended linker. Whereas this arrangement is similar to the structure of RecJ, a 5′ → 3′ DHH family DNase and other DHH family nanoRNases, Bacillus NrnA has gained an extended substrate-binding patch that we posit is responsible for its 3′ → 5′ activity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas