Prokaryotic rRNA-mRNA interactions are involved in all translation steps and shape bacterial transcripts

Shir Bahiri Elitzur, Rachel Cohen-Kupiec, Dana Yacobi, Larissa Fine, Boaz Apt, Alon Diament, Tamir Tuller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The well-established Shine-Dalgarno model suggests that translation initiation in bacteria is regulated via base-pairing between ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and mRNA. We used novel computational analyses and modelling of 823 bacterial genomes coupled with experiments to demonstrate that rRNA-mRNA interactions are diverse and regulate all translation steps from pre-initiation to termination. Previous research has reported the significant influence of rRNA-mRNA interactions, mainly in the initiation phase of translation. The results reported in this paper suggest that, in addition to the rRNA-mRNA interactions near the start codon that trigger initiation in bacteria, rRNA-mRNA interactions affect all sub-stages of the translation process (pre-initiation, initiation, elongation, termination). As these interactions dictate translation efficiency, they serve as an evolutionary driving force for shaping transcripts in bacteria while considering trade-offs between the effects of different interactions across different transcript regions on translation efficacy and efficiency. We observed selection for strong interactions in regions where such interactions are likely to enhance initiation, regulate early elongation, and ensure translation termination fidelity. We discovered selection against strong interactions and for intermediate interactions in coding regions and presented evidence that these patterns maximize elongation efficiency while also enhancing initiation. These finding are relevant to all biomedical disciplines due to the centrality of the translation process and the effect of rRNA-mRNA interactions on transcript evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-698
Number of pages15
JournalRNA Biology
Issue numberS2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Shine-Dalgarno
  • protein translation in bacteria
  • rRNA-mRNA interaction
  • translation elongation
  • translation initiation
  • translation termination


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