Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

Ribosomal RNA degradation induced by the bacterial RNA polymerase inhibitor rifampicin

Abstract : Rifampicin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, inhibits bacterial RNA polymerase. Here we show that rifampicin treatment of Escherichia coli results in a 50% decrease in cell size due to a terminal cell division. This decrease is a consequence of inhibition of transcription as evidenced by an isogenic rifampicin-resistant strain. There is also a 50% decrease in total RNA due mostly to a 90% decrease in 23S and 16S rRNA levels. Control experiments showed this decrease is not an artifact of our RNA purification protocol and therefore due to degradation in vivo. Since chromosome replication continues after rifampicin treatment, ribonucleotides from rRNA degradation could be recycled for DNA synthesis. Rifampicin-induced rRNA degradation occurs under different growth conditions and in different strain backgrounds. However, rRNA degradation is never complete, thus permitting the reinitiation of growth after removal of rifampicin. The orderly shutdown of growth under conditions where the induction of stress genes is blocked by rifampicin is noteworthy. Inhibition of protein synthesis by chloramphenicol resulted in a partial decrease in 23S and 16S rRNA levels whereas kasugamycin treatment had no effect. Analysis of temperature-sensitive mutant strains implicate RNase E, PNPase, and RNase R in rifampicin-induced rRNA degradation. We cannot distinguish between a direct role for RNase E in rRNA degradation versus an indirect role involving a slowdown of mRNA degradation. Since mRNA and rRNA appear to be degraded by the same ribonucleases, competition by rRNA is likely to result in slower mRNA degradation rates in the presence of rifampicin than under normal growth conditions.
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Suzette Astruc Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Tuesday, November 23, 2021 - 9:21:56 AM
Last modification on : Monday, November 29, 2021 - 3:24:03 PM


Publisher files allowed on an open archive


Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License



Lina Hamouche, Leonora Poljak, Agamemnon Carpousis. Ribosomal RNA degradation induced by the bacterial RNA polymerase inhibitor rifampicin. RNA, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2021, 27 (8), pp.946-958. ⟨10.1261/rna.078776.121⟩. ⟨hal-03442211⟩



Record views


Files downloads