Hfq binding changes the structure of Escherichia coli small noncoding RNAs OxyS and RprA, which are involved in the riboregulation of rpoS.RNA. 2013 Aug; 19(8):1089-104.RNA
OxyS and RprA are two small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) that modulate the expression of rpoS, encoding an alternative sigma factor that activates transcription of multiple Escherichia coli stress-response genes. While RprA activates rpoS for translation, OxyS down-regulates the transcript. Crucially, the RNA binding protein Hfq is required for both sRNAs to function, although the specific role played by Hfq remains unclear. We have investigated RprA and OxyS interactions with Hfq using biochemical and biophysical approaches. In particular, we have obtained the molecular envelopes of the Hfq-sRNA complexes using small-angle scattering methods, which reveal key molecular details. These data indicate that Hfq does not substantially change shape upon complex formation, whereas the sRNAs do. We link the impact of Hfq binding, and the sRNA structural changes induced, to transcript stability with respect to RNase E degradation. In light of these findings, we discuss the role of Hfq in the opposing regulatory functions played by RprA and OxyS in rpoS regulation.