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Utilization of tmRNA sequences for bacterial identification

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Schönhuber,  Wilhelm
Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Amann,  Rudolf I.
Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Schoenhuber_2001.pdf
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Citation

Schönhuber, W., Le Bourhis, G., Tremblay, J., Amann, R. I., & Kulakauskas, S. (2001). Utilization of tmRNA sequences for bacterial identification. BMC Microbiology, 1(20), 1-8.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-59F7-2
Abstract
In recent years, molecular approaches based on nucleotide sequences of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) have become widely used tools for identification of bacteria [1-4]. The high degree of evolutionary conservation makes 16S and 23S rRNA molecules very suitable for phylogenetic studies above the species level [3-5]. More than 16,000 sequences of 16S rRNA are presently available in public databases [4,6]. The 16S rRNA sequences are commonly used to design fluorescently labeled oligonucleotide probes. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with these probes followed by observation with epifluorescence microscopy allows the identification of a specific microorganism in a mixture with other bacteria [2-4]. By shifting probe target sites from conservative to increasingly variable regions of rRNA, it is possible to adjust the probe specificity from kingdom to species level. Nevertheless, 16S rRNA sequences of closely related strains, subspecies, or even of different species are often identical and therefore can not be used as differentiating markers [3]. Another restriction concerns the accessibility of target sites to the probe in FISH experiments. The presence of secondary structures, or protection of rRNA segments by ribosomal proteins in fixed cells can limit the choice of variable regions as in situ targets for oligonucleotide probes [7,8]. One way to overcome the limitations of in situ identification of bacteria is to use molecules other than rRNA for phylogenetic identification of bacteria, for which nucleotide sequences would be sufficiently divergent to design species specific probes, and which would be more accessible to oligonucleotide probes. For this purpose we investigated the possibility of using tmRNA (also known as 10Sa RNA; [9-11]). This molecule was discovered in E. coli and described as small stable RNA, present at ~1,000 copies per cell [9,11]. The high copy number is an important prerequisite for FISH, which works best with naturally amplified target molecules. In E. coli, tmRNA is encoded by the ssrA gene, is 363 nucleotides long and has properties of tRNA and mRNA [12,13]. tmRNA was shown to be involved in the degradation of truncated proteins: the tmRNA associates with ribosomes stalled on mRNAs lacking stop codons, finally resulting in the addition of a C-terminal peptide tag to the truncated protein. The peptide tag directs the abnormal protein to proteolysis [14,15]. 165 tmRNA sequences have so far (August 2001; The tmRNA Website: http://www.indiana.edu/~tmrna/) been determined [16,17]. The tmRNA is likely to be present in all bacteria and has also been found in algae chloroplasts, the cyanelle of Cyanophora paradoxa and the mitochondrion of the flagellate Reclinomonas americana[10,17,18].