Hibernation-promoting factor sequesters staphylococcus aureus ribosomes to antagonize rnase r-mediated nucleolytic degradation

Anna Lipońska, Mee Ngan F. Yap*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Bacterial and eukaryotic hibernation factors prevent translation by physically blocking the decoding center of ribosomes, a phenomenon called ribosome hibernation that often occurs in response to nutrient deprivation. The human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus lacking the sole hibernation factor HPF undergoes massive ribosome degradation via an unknown pathway. Using genetic and biochemical approaches, we find that inactivating the 3'-to-5' exonuclease RNase R sup-presses ribosome degradation in the ∆hpf mutant. In vitro cell-free degradation assays confirm that 30S and 70S ribosomes isolated from the ∆hpf mutant are extremely susceptible to RNase R, in stark contrast to nucleolytic resistance of the HPF-bound 70S and 100S complexes isolated from the wild type. In the absence of HPF, specific S. aureus 16S rRNA helices are sensitive to nucleolytic cleavage. These RNase hot spots are distinct from that found in the Escherichia coli ribosomes. S. aur-eus RNase R is associated with ribosomes, but unlike the E. coli counterpart, it is not regulated by general stressors and acetylation. The results not only highlight key differences between the evolutionarily conserved RNase R homologs but also provide direct evidence that HPF preserves ribosome integrity beyond its role in translational avoidance, thereby poising the hibernating ribosomes for rapid resumption of translation. IMPORTANCE Ribosome hibernation is pivotal for the rapid recovery of translation after quiescence in both bacteria and eukaryotes. Ribosome hibernation factors steri-cally occlude the entry of mRNA and tRNA and are thought to primarily maintain ribosomes in a translation-repressive state, thereby providing a pool of readily recy-clable 70S or 80S complexes upon dissociation of the hibernation factors. Ribosomes in Staphylococcus aureus cells lacking the sole hibernation factor HPF are extremely unstable. Here, we show that HPF binding inhibits ribosome degradation by the evo-lutionarily conserved exoribonuclease RNase R. The data not only uncover a direct protective role of HPF in ribosome stability but also reinforce the versatility of RNase R in RNA processing, decay, and ribosome quality control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00334-21
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Hibernation
  • RNase
  • Ribosome
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Stress response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Microbiology


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