Translational repression is sufficient for gene silencing by bacterial small noncoding RNAs in the absence of mRNA destruction
Stress-induced Hfq-binding small RNAs of Escherichia coli, SgrS and RyhB, down-regulate the expression of target mRNAs through base-pairing. These small RNAs form ribonucleoprotein complexes with Hfq and RNase E. The regulatory outcomes of the RNase E/Hfq/small RNA-containing ribonucleoprotein complex (sRNP) are rapid degradation of target mRNAs and translational inhibition. Here, we ask to what extent the sRNP-mediated mRNA destabilization contributes to the overall silencing of target genes by using strains in which the rapid degradation of mRNA no longer occurs. We demonstrate that translational repression occurs in the absence of sRNP-mediated mRNA destabilization. We conclude that translational repression is sufficient for gene silencing by sRNP. One possible physiological role of mRNA degradation mediated by sRNP is to rid the cell of translationally inactive mRNAs, making gene silencing irreversible.