For decades ribosome biogenesis and translation represent key targets in the antimicrobial drug development to combat bacterial infections. Here we report a survey of various small non-protein coding (ncRNAs) associated with ribosomal protein (r-protein) operons in the bacterial pathogens S. aureus, V. cholerae, S. Typhi and M. tuberculosis. We identified four ncRNA candidates that overlap with important structural regions involved in translational feedback regulation. Most notable are the ncRNA 55 family containing the unique recognition site of the L10-(L12)4 complex that consequently might be involved in L10 operon regulation, and ncRNA StyR 337 that resembles the pseudoknot secondary structure of the S4 regulatory region. These findings potentially implicate the candidate ncRNAs in translational regulation of the corresponding operons. In total we report 28 intergenically encoded ncRNAs that map in sense orientation to 14 ribosomal protein operons and 13 cis-antisense encoded ncRNAs transcribed complementary to nine r-protein mRNAs. All ncRNA candidates were independently validated by extensive Northern blot hybridizations to account for growth-stage specific ncRNA transcription and to check ncRNA integrity. In addition we revisited the str-operon as experimental model to monitor internal initiation of transcription in the operon throughout bacterial growth by real-time PCR. Our data indicate additional facets of ribosomal protein operons transcription, and might lead to novel insights of ribosome biogenesis, as well as exploration of strategies involving differential drug development.
Keywords: Ribosomal proteins, non-protein coding RNA (ncRNA), transcription, bacterial pathogens, operons, regulation, biogenesis, translation represent key targets, antimicrobial drug development, multifunctional