Pervasive transcription: detecting functional RNAs in bacteria.
ABSTRACT: Pervasive, or genome-wide, transcription has been reported in all domains of life. In bacteria, most pervasive transcription occurs antisense to protein-coding transcripts, although recently a new class of pervasive RNAs was identified that originates from within annotated genes. Initially considered to be non-functional transcriptional noise, pervasive transcription is increasingly being recognized as important in regulating gene expression. The function of pervasive transcription is an extensively debated question in the field of transcriptomics and regulatory RNA biology. Here, we highlight the most recent contributions addressing the purpose of pervasive transcription in bacteria and discuss their implications.
Project description:Pervasive transcription is observed in a wide range of organisms, including humans, mice, and viruses, but the functional significance of the resulting transcripts remains uncertain. Current genetic approaches are often limited by their emphasis on protein-coding open reading frames (ORFs). We previously identified extensive pervasive transcription from the murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV68) genome outside known ORFs and antisense to known genes (termed expressed genomic regions [EGRs]). Similar antisense transcripts have been identified in many other herpesviruses, including Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus and human and murine cytomegalovirus. Despite their prevalence, whether these RNAs have any functional importance in the viral life cycle is unknown, and one interpretation is that these are merely "noise" generated by functionally unimportant transcriptional events. To determine whether pervasive transcription of a herpesvirus genome generates RNA molecules that are functionally important, we used a strand-specific functional approach to target transcripts from thirteen EGRs in MHV68. We found that targeting transcripts from six EGRs reduced viral protein expression, proving that pervasive transcription can generate functionally important RNAs. We characterized transcripts emanating from EGRs 26 and 27 in detail using several methods, including RNA sequencing, and identified several novel polyadenylated transcripts that were enriched in the nuclei of infected cells. These data provide the first evidence of the functional importance of regions of pervasive transcription emanating from MHV68 EGRs. Therefore, studies utilizing mutation of a herpesvirus genome must account for possible effects on RNAs generated by pervasive transcription. IMPORTANCE The fact that pervasive transcription produces functionally important RNAs has profound implications for design and interpretation of genetic studies in herpesviruses, since such studies often involve mutating both strands of the genome. This is a common potential problem; for example, a conservative estimate is that there are an additional 73,000 nucleotides transcribed antisense to annotated ORFs from the 119,450-bp MHV68 genome. Recognizing the importance of considering the function of each strand of the viral genome independently, we used strand-specific approaches to identify six regions of the genome encoding transcripts that promoted viral protein expression. For two of these regions, we mapped novel transcripts and determined that targeting transcripts from these regions reduced viral replication and the expression of other viral genes. This is the first description of a function for these RNAs and suggests that novel transcripts emanating from regions of pervasive transcription are critical for the viral life cycle.
Project description:RNA polymerase (RNAPII) transcription occurs pervasively, raising the important question of its functional impact on other DNA-associated processes, including replication. In budding yeast, replication originates from Autonomously Replicating Sequences (ARSs), generally located in intergenic regions. The influence of transcription on ARSs function has been studied for decades, but these earlier studies have neglected the role of non-annotated transcription. We studied the relationships between pervasive transcription and replication origin activity using high-resolution transcription maps. We show that ARSs alter the pervasive transcription landscape by pausing and terminating neighboring RNAPII transcription, thus limiting the occurrence of pervasive transcription within origins. We propose that quasi-symmetrical binding of the ORC complex to ARS borders and/or pre-RC formation are responsible for pausing and termination. We show that low, physiological levels of pervasive transcription impact the function of replication origins. Overall, our results have important implications for understanding the impact of genomic location on origin function.
Project description:In eukaryotes, RNA species originating from pervasive transcription are regulators of various cellular processes, from the expression of individual genes to the control of cellular development and oncogenesis. In prokaryotes, the function of pervasive transcription and its output on cell physiology is still unknown. Most bacteria possess termination factor Rho, which represses pervasive, mostly antisense, transcription. Here, we investigate the biological significance of Rho-controlled transcription in the Gram-positive model bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Rho inactivation strongly affected gene expression in B. subtilis, as assessed by transcriptome and proteome analysis of a rho-null mutant during exponential growth in rich medium. Subsequent physiological analyses demonstrated that a considerable part of Rho-controlled transcription is connected to balanced regulation of three mutually exclusive differentiation programs: cell motility, biofilm formation, and sporulation. In the absence of Rho, several up-regulated sense and antisense transcripts affect key structural and regulatory elements of these differentiation programs, thereby suppressing motility and biofilm formation and stimulating sporulation. We dissected how Rho is involved in the activity of the cell fate decision-making network, centered on the master regulator Spo0A. We also revealed a novel regulatory mechanism of Spo0A activation through Rho-dependent intragenic transcription termination of the protein kinase kinB gene. Altogether, our findings indicate that distinct Rho-controlled transcripts are functional and constitute a previously unknown built-in module for the control of cell differentiation in B. subtilis. In a broader context, our results highlight the recruitment of the termination factor Rho, for which the conserved biological role is probably to repress pervasive transcription, in highly integrated, bacterium-specific, regulatory networks.
Project description:This SuperSeries is composed of the following subset Series: GSE41936: Rho and NusG suppress pervasive antisense transcription in Escherichia coli [ChIP-chip]. GSE41938: Rho and NusG suppress pervasive antisense transcription in Escherichia coli [tiling array]. GSE41939: Rho and NusG suppress pervasive antisense transcription in Escherichia coli [RNA-seq]. Refer to individual Series
Project description:cis-Encoded antisense RNAs (asRNAs) are widespread along bacterial transcriptomes. However, the role of most of these RNAs remains unknown, and there is an ongoing discussion as to what extent these transcripts are the result of transcriptional noise. We show, by comparative transcriptomics of 20 bacterial species and one chloroplast, that the number of asRNAs is exponentially dependent on the genomic AT content and that expression of asRNA at low levels exerts little impact in terms of energy consumption. A transcription model simulating mRNA and asRNA production indicates that the asRNA regulatory effect is only observed above certain expression thresholds, substantially higher than physiological transcript levels. These predictions were verified experimentally by overexpressing nine different asRNAs in Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Our results suggest that most of the antisense transcripts found in bacteria are the consequence of transcriptional noise, arising at spurious promoters throughout the genome.
Project description:Cis-encoded antisense RNAs (asRNAs) are widespread along bacterial transcriptomes. However, the role of the vast majority of these RNAs remains unknown, and there is an ongoing discussion as to what extent these transcripts are the result of transcriptional noise. We show, by comparative transcriptomics of 20 bacterial species and one chloroplast, that the number of asRNAs is exponentially dependent on the genomic AT content, and that expression of asRNA at low levels exerts little impact in terms of energy consumption. A transcription model simulating mRNA and asRNA production indicates that the asRNA regulatory effect is only observed above certain expression thresholds, substantially higher than physiological transcript levels. These predictions were verified experimentally by overexpressing 9 different asRNAs in M. pneumoniae. Our results suggest that most of the antisense transcripts found in bacteria are the consequence of transcriptional noise, arising at spurious promoters throughout the genome.
Project description:Noncoding RNAs, including antisense RNAs (asRNAs) that originate from the complementary strand of protein-coding genes, are involved in the regulation of gene expression in all domains of life. Recent application of deep-sequencing technologies has revealed that the transcription of asRNAs occurs genome-wide in bacteria. Although the role of the vast majority of asRNAs remains unknown, it is often assumed that their presence implies important regulatory functions, similar to those of other noncoding RNAs. Alternatively, many antisense transcripts may be produced by chance transcription events from promoter-like sequences that result from the degenerate nature of bacterial transcription factor binding sites. To investigate the biological relevance of antisense transcripts, we compared genome-wide patterns of asRNA expression in closely related enteric bacteria, Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, by performing strand-specific transcriptome sequencing. Although antisense transcripts are abundant in both species, less than 3% of asRNAs are expressed at high levels in both species, and only about 14% appear to be conserved among species. And unlike the promoters of protein-coding genes, asRNA promoters show no evidence of sequence conservation between, or even within, species. Our findings suggest that many or even most bacterial asRNAs are nonadaptive by-products of the cell's transcription machinery. IMPORTANCE Application of high-throughput methods has revealed the expression throughout bacterial genomes of transcripts encoded on the strand complementary to protein-coding genes. Because transcription is costly, it is usually assumed that these transcripts, termed antisense RNAs (asRNAs), serve some function; however, the role of most asRNAs is unclear, raising questions about their relevance in cellular processes. Because natural selection conserves functional elements, comparisons between related species provide a method for assessing functionality genome-wide. Applying such an approach, we assayed all transcripts in two closely related bacteria, Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, and demonstrate that, although the levels of genome-wide antisense transcription are similarly high in both bacteria, only a small fraction of asRNAs are shared across species. Moreover, the promoters associated with asRNAs show no evidence of sequence conservation between, or even within, species. These findings indicate that despite the genome-wide transcription of asRNAs, many of these transcripts are likely nonfunctional.
Project description:A plethora of non-coding RNAs has been discovered using high-resolution transcriptomics tools, indicating that transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation is much more complex than previously appreciated. Small RNAs associated with transcription start sites of annotated coding regions (TSSaRNAs) are pervasive in both eukaryotes and bacteria. Here, we provide evidence for existence of TSSaRNAs in several archaeal transcriptomes including: Halobacterium salinarum, Pyrococcus furiosus, Methanococcus maripaludis, and Sulfolobus solfataricus. We validated TSSaRNAs from the model archaeon Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 by deep sequencing two independent small-RNA enriched (RNA-seq) and a primary-transcript enriched (dRNA-seq) strand-specific libraries. We identified 652 transcripts, of which 179 were shown to be primary transcripts (?7% of the annotated genome). Distinct growth-associated expression patterns between TSSaRNAs and their cognate genes were observed, indicating a possible role in environmental responses that may result from RNA polymerase with varying pausing rhythms. This work shows that TSSaRNAs are ubiquitous across all domains of life.
Project description:Poxviruses are large DNA viruses that replicate within the cytoplasm and encode a complete transcription system, including a multisubunit RNA polymerase, stage-specific transcription factors, capping and methylating enzymes, and a poly(A) polymerase. Expression of the more than 200 open reading frames by vaccinia virus, the prototype poxvirus, is temporally regulated: early mRNAs are synthesized immediately after infection, whereas intermediate and late mRNAs are synthesized following genome replication. The postreplicative transcripts are heterogeneous in length and overlap the entire genome, which pose obstacles for high resolution mapping. We used tag-based methods in conjunction with high throughput cDNA sequencing to determine the precise 5'-capped and 3'-polyadenylated ends of postreplicative RNAs. Polymerase slippage during initiation of intermediate and late RNA synthesis results in a 5'-poly(A) leader that allowed the unambiguous identification of true transcription start sites. Ninety RNA start sites were located just upstream of intermediate and late open reading frames, but many more appeared anomalous, occurring within coding and non-coding regions, indicating pervasive transcription initiation. We confirmed the presence of functional promoter sequences upstream of representative anomalous start sites and demonstrated that alternative start sites within open reading frames could generate truncated isoforms of proteins. In an analogous manner, poly(A) sequences allowed accurate mapping of the numerous 3'-ends of postreplicative RNAs, which were preceded by a pyrimidine-rich sequence in the DNA coding strand. The distribution of postreplicative promoter sequences throughout the genome provides enormous transcriptional complexity, and the large number of previously unmapped RNAs may have novel functions.