CRISPR-associated Rossmann fold (CARF) domain signalling underpins the modulation of CRISPR-Cas systems. Unlike the majority of known CARF domains associated with nuclease activity in CRISPR-Cas systems, the CARF domain of the transcriptional regulator RtcR modulates the opposite function by activating an RNA end sealing system. The Rtc RNA repair system in Escherichia coli consists ofthe universally conserved RNA cyclase RtcA and RNA ligase RtcB, and is known to be induced by antibiotics and oxidative stress. We aim to investigate the CARF domain mediated transcriptional regulation of the Rtc system in vivo and in vitro. A reporter based assay confirmed that the RtcR CARF domain has a negative regulatory effect on RtcR activity and subsequent induction of the rtcBA operon. Both predictive modelling and site-directed mutagenesis suggest the Rtc induction is not due to oxidation of cysteines present in the RtcR regulatory CARF domain. Interestingly, the enzymes RtcA and RtcB, products of the actions of RtcR as a transcription regulator, are required for RtcR to stimulate expression of the rtcBA operon and directly bind to the RtcR CARF domain as shown in vivo by two-hybrid and in vitro by gel filtration. Given that CARF domains are known to be activated by RNA binding, a range of RNA molecules linked to the Rtc system or CARF domains in general are currently being investigated as potential inducers in an in vitro transcription system. Together, our data indicate an expanded range for CARF domain signalling, including via protein-protein interactions.


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