Era is a small G-protein widely conserved in eubacteria and eukaryotes. Although essential for bacterial growth and implicated in diverse cellular processes, its actual function remains unclear. Several lines of evidence suggest that Era may be involved in some aspect of RNA biology. The GTPase domain contains features in common with all G-proteins and is required for Era function in vivo. The C-terminal domain (Era(CTD)) bears scant similarity to proteins outside the Era subfamily. On the basis of sequence comparisons, we argue that the Era(CTD) is similar to, but distinct from, the KH RNA-binding domain. Although both contain the consensus VIGxxGxxI RNA-binding motif, the protein folds are probably different. We show that bacterial Era binds RNA in vitro and can form higher-order RNA-protein complexes. Mutations in the VIGxxGxxI motif and other conserved residues of the Escherichia coli Era(CDT) decrease RNA binding in vitro and have corresponding effects on Era function in vivo, including previously described effects on cell division and chromosome partitioning. Importantly, mutations in L-66, located in the predicted switch II region of the E. coli Era GTPase domain, also perturb binding, leading us to propose that the GTPase domain regulates RNA binding in response to unknown cellular cues. The possible biological significance of Era RNA binding is discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology