In Rhodobacter capsulatus the puf operon encodes proteins of the photosynthetic apparatus. The polycistronic puf mRNA is comprised of segments that show differential stability. Here, we show that the rate of decay of the 2.7-kb pufBALMX mRNA species in Escherichia coli depends on the activity of ribonuclease E (RNase E), whereas the degradation of the 0.5-kb pufBA mRNA segment is not affected by a mutation in the rne gene. The RNase E-promoted decay of the pufLMX mRNA depends on the presence of a 1.4-kb pufLM mRNA segment, in which rate-limiting endonucleolytic cleavage was postulated to occur in R. capsulatus. The insertion of 185 bp of this 1.4-kb segment into pufB results in an RNase E-dependent decay of the modified pufBA mRNA segment in E. coli. Our findings suggest that in R. capsulatus an RNase E-like activity is responsible for the rate-limiting endonucleolytic cleavage occurring within the pufLM mRNA segment, whereas the 0.5-kb pufBA mRNA segment is degraded by a different RNase E-independent decay mechanism. © 1992.
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