• Comparative genomics provides structural and functional insights into Bacteroides RNA biology.

      Prezza, Gianluca; Ryan, Daniel; Mädler, Gohar; Reichardt, Sarah; Barquist, Lars; Westermann, Alexander J; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2021-08-28)
      Bacteria employ noncoding RNA molecules for a wide range of biological processes, including scaffolding large molecular complexes, catalyzing chemical reactions, defending against phages, and controlling gene expression. Secondary structures, binding partners, and molecular mechanisms have been determined for numerous small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) in model aerobic bacteria. However, technical hurdles have largely prevented analogous analyses in the anaerobic gut microbiota. While experimental techniques are being developed to investigate the sRNAs of gut commensals, computational tools and comparative genomics can provide immediate functional insight. Here, using Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron as a representative microbiota member, we illustrate how comparative genomics improves our understanding of RNA biology in an understudied gut bacterium. We investigate putative RNA-binding proteins and predict a Bacteroides cold-shock protein homolog to have an RNA-related function. We apply an in silico protocol incorporating both sequence and structural analysis to determine the consensus structures and conservation of nine Bacteroides noncoding RNA families. Using structure probing, we validate and refine these predictions and deposit them in the Rfam database. Through synteny analyses, we illustrate how genomic coconservation can serve as a predictor of sRNA function. Altogether, this work showcases the power of RNA informatics for investigating the RNA biology of anaerobic microbiota members.
    • RNA Structure-A Neglected Puppet Master for the Evolution of Virus and Host Immunity.

      Smyth, Redmond P; Negroni, Matteo; Lever, Andrew M; Mak, Johnson; Kenyon, Julia C; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      The central dogma of molecular biology describes the flow of genetic information from DNA to protein via an RNA intermediate. For many years, RNA has been considered simply as a messenger relaying information between DNA and proteins. Recent advances in next generation sequencing technology, bioinformatics, and non-coding RNA biology have highlighted the many important roles of RNA in virtually every biological process. Our understanding of RNA biology has been further enriched by a number of significant advances in probing RNA structures. It is now appreciated that many cellular and viral biological processes are highly dependent on specific RNA structures and/or sequences, and such reliance will undoubtedly impact on the evolution of both hosts and viruses. As a contribution to this special issue on host immunity and virus evolution, it is timely to consider how RNA sequences and structures could directly influence the co-evolution between hosts and viruses. In this manuscript, we begin by stating some of the basic principles of RNA structures, followed by describing some of the critical RNA structures in both viruses and hosts. More importantly, we highlight a number of available new tools to predict and to evaluate novel RNA structures, pointing out some of the limitations readers should be aware of in their own analyses.