Grad‐seq in respiratory pathogen reveals new player in competence control

The latest publication by Jörg Vogel in the EMBO journal describes the identification of the RNA/protein complexome in the Gram-positive pathogen S. pneumoniae.

In the March issue of the EMBO Journal, Jörg Vogel and his colleagues from the Karolinska Institute (Stockholm, Sweden) demonstrate how Grad-seq analysis of Streptococcus pneumoniae provides the first cellular RNA/protein complexome resource for a Gram‐positive bacterium, that also represents the most common bacterial cause of community-acquired pneumonia worldwide. Furthermore, they describe their discovery of a specific exonuclease as a new player in the competence regulon for DNA uptake and pneumococcal virulence. 


RNA–protein interactions are the crucial basis for many steps of bacterial gene expression, including post‐transcriptional control by small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs). In stark contrast to recent progress in the analysis of Gram‐negative bacteria, knowledge about RNA–protein complexes in Gram‐positive species remains scarce. Here, we used the Grad‐seq approach to draft a comprehensive landscape of such complexes in Streptococcus pneumoniae, in total determining the sedimentation profiles of ~ 88% of the transcripts and ~ 62% of the proteins of this important human pathogen. Analysis of in‐gradient distributions and subsequent tag‐based protein capture identified interactions of the exoribonuclease Cbf1/YhaM with sRNAs that control bacterial competence for DNA uptake. Unexpectedly, the nucleolytic activity of Cbf1 stabilizes these sRNAs, thereby promoting their function as repressors of competence. Overall, these results provide the first RNA/protein complexome resource of a Gram‐positive species and illustrate how this can be utilized to identify new molecular factors with functions in RNA‐based regulation of virulence‐relevant pathways.

J. Hör, G. Garriss, S. Di Giorgio, L.-S. Hack, J. T. Vanselow, K. U. Förstner, A. Schlosser, B. Henriques‐Normark, J. Vogel. Grad‐seq in a Gram‐positive bacterium reveals exonucleolytic sRNA activation in competence control. EMBO J (2020)39:e103852. DOI: 10.15252/embj.2019103852

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Nina-Vanessa Panitz

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Dr Nina-Vanessa Panitz

Nina Panitz is a trained parasitologist from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). As scientific coordinator at HIRI, she takes care of various activities at the interface of science and administration. She ensures that HIRI researchers can spend their time doing what they love: research.