Hfq and RNase R Mediate rRNA Processing and Degradation in a Novel RNA Quality Control Process

Ricardo F. Dos Santos, José M. Andrade, Joana Pissarra, Murray P. Deutscher, Cecília M. Arraiano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


RNA quality control pathways are critical for cell survival. Here, we describe a new surveillance process involved in the degradation of highly structured and stable ribosomal RNAs. The results demonstrated that the RNA chaperone Hfq and the 3=–5= exoribonuclease R mediate the elimination of detrimental rRNA fragments and are required for the correct processing of rRNA precursors. Escherichia coli cells lacking both Hfq and RNase R accumulate a high level of 16S- and 23Sderived rRNA fragments. Hfq and RNase R were also shown to participate in the maturation of 16S and 23S rRNA precursors. This correlates with the fact that in the absence of Hfq and RNase R, there are severe ribosome assembly defects and a sharp reduction in 70S ribosome levels. Hfq and RNase R may act independently or in a complex, as protein interaction studies revealed that these RNA-binding proteins can associate. This is the first demonstration that the well-conserved Hfq and RNase R proteins act on common regulatory pathways, unraveling previously unknown mechanisms of rRNA surveillance with important consequences for translation and cell survival. IMPORTANCE Quality control pathways that oversee the quality of stable RNA molecules are critical for the cell. In this work, we demonstrate, for the first time, a functional link between Hfq and RNase R in the processing and degradation of the highly structured rRNAs. These RNA-binding proteins are required for the maturation of 16S and 23S rRNAs and correct ribosome assembly. Furthermore, they participate in the degradation of rRNAs and clearance of toxic rRNA fragments from the cell. Our studies have also shown that Hfq and RNase R can form a complex. In summary, the cooperation between Hfq and RNase R in metabolic pathways of stable RNAs may represent a broader mechanism of RNA quality control, given the high conservation of these RNA-binding proteins throughout evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02398-20
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2020


  • Hfq
  • Ribosomal RNA
  • RNA maturation
  • RNA processing
  • RNA quality control
  • RNase R


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