Published on May 12, 2009 in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A volume 106.
PubMed ID: 19416889
Compared with the rapidly expanding set of known biological roles for RNA, the known chemical diversity of cellular RNA has remained limited primarily to canonical RNA, 3'-aminoacylated tRNAs, nucleobase-modified RNAs, and 5'-capped mRNAs in eukaryotes. We developed two methods to detect in a broad manner chemically labile cellular small molecule-RNA conjugates. The methods were validated by the detection of known tRNA and rRNA modifications. The first method analyzes small molecules cleaved from RNA by base or nucleophile treatment. Application to Escherichia coli and Streptomyces venezuelae RNA revealed an RNA-linked hydroxyfuranone or succinyl ester group, in addition to a number of other putative small molecule-RNA conjugates not previously reported. The second method analyzes nuclease-generated mononucleotides before and after treatment with base or nucleophile and also revealed a number of new putative small molecule-RNA conjugates, including 3'-dephospho-CoA and its succinyl-, acetyl-, and methylmalonyl-thioester derivatives. Subsequent experiments established that these CoA species are attached to E. coli and S. venezuelae RNA at the 5' terminus. CoA-linked RNA cannot be generated through aberrant transcriptional initiation by E. coli RNA polymerase in vitro, and CoA-linked RNA in E. coli is only found among smaller (approximately < 200 nucleotide) RNAs that have yet to be identified. These results provide examples of small molecule-RNA conjugates and suggest that the chemical diversity of cellular RNA may be greater than previously understood.