The E. coli RhlE RNA helicase regulates the function of related RNA helicases during ribosome assembly

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Escherichia coli contains five members of the DEAD-box RNA helicase family, a ubiquitous class of proteins characterized by their ability to unwind RNA duplexes. Although four of these proteins have been implicated in RNA turnover or ribosome biogenesis, no cellular function for the RhlE DEAD-box protein has been described as yet. During an analysis of the cold-sensitive growth defect of a strain lacking the DeaD/CsdA RNA helicase, rhlE plasmids were identified from a chromosomal library as multicopy suppressors of the growth defect. Remarkably, when tested for allele specificity, RhlE overproduction was found to exacerbate the cold-sensitive growth defect of a strain that lacks the SrmB RNA helicase. Moreover, the absence of RhlE exacerbated or alleviated the cold-sensitive defect of deaD or srmB strains, respectively. Primer extension and ribosome analysis indicated that RhlE regulates the accumulation of immature ribosomal RNA or ribosome precursors when deaD or srmB strains are grown at low temperatures. By using an epitope-tagged version of RhlE, the majority of RhlE in cell extracts was found to cosediment with ribosome-containing fractions. Since both DeaD and SrmB have been recently shown to function in ribosome assembly, these findings suggests that rhlE genetically interacts with srmB and deaD to modulate their function during ribosome maturation. On the basis of the available evidence, I propose that RhlE is a novel ribosome assembly factor, which plays a role in the interconversion of ribosomal RNA-folding intermediates that are further processed by DeaD or SrmB during ribosome maturation. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-389
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • DEAD-box protein
  • Escherichia coli
  • Ribosome
  • Ribosome assembly
  • RNA helicase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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