Evaluation of bacterial RNase P RNA as a drug target

Dagmar K. Willkomm, Heike Gruegelsiepe, Olga Goudinakis, Rosel Kretschmer-Kazemi Far, Rolf Bald, Volker A. Erdmann, Roland K. Hartmann*

*Corresponding author for this work
15 Citations (Scopus)


RNA has gained increasing importance as a therapeutic target. However, so far mRNAs rather than stable cellular RNAs have been considered in such studies. In bacteria, the tRNA-processing enzyme RNase P has a catalytic RNA subunit. Fundamental differences in structure and function between bacterial and eukaryotic RNase P, and its indispensability for cell viability make the bacterial enzyme an attractive drug target candidate. Herein we describe two approaches utilized to evaluate whether the catalytic RNA subunit of bacterial RNase P is amenable to inactivation by antisense-based strategies. In the first approach, we rationally designed RNA hairpin oligonucleotides targeted at the tRNA 3′-CCA binding site (P15 loop region) of bacterial RNase P RNA by attempting to include principles derived from the natural CopA - CopT antisense system. Substantial inactivation of RNase P RNA was observed for Type A RNase P RNA (such as that in Escherichia coli) but not for Type B (as in Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae). Moreover, only an RNA oligonucleotide (Eco 3′) complementary to the CCA binding site and its 3′ flanking sequences was shown to be an efficient inhibitor. Mutation of Eco 3′ and analysis of other natural RNase P RNAs with sequence deviations in the P15 loop region showed that inhibition is due to interaction of Eco 3′ with this region and occurs in a highly sequence-specific manner. A DNA version of Eco 3′ was a less potent inhibitor. The potential of Eco 3′ to form an initial kissing complex with the P15 loop did not prove advantageous. In a second approach, we tested a set of oligonucleotides against E. coli RNase P RNA which were designed by algorithms developed for the selection of suitable mRNA targets. This approach identified the P10/11-J11/12 region of bacterial RNase P RNA as another accessible region. In conclusion, both the P15 loop and P10/11J11/12 regions of Type A RNase P RNAs seem to be promising antisense target sites since they are easily accessible and sufficiently interspersed with nonhelical sequence elements, and oligonucleotide binding directly interferes with substrate docking to these two regions.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1041-1048
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 06.10.2003

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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