Bacterial RNase P is an essential ribonucleoprotein composed of a catalytic RNA component (encoded by the rnpB gene) and an associated protein moiety (encoded by rnpA). We construct a system that allows for the deletion of the essential endogenous rnpA copy and for its simultaneous replacement by a heterologous version of the gene. Using growth rate as a proxy, we explore the effects on fitness of heterologous replacement by increasingly divergent versions of the RNase P protein. All of the heterologs tested complement the loss of the endogenous rnpA gene, suggesting that all existing bacterial versions of the rnpA sequence retain the elements required for functional interaction with the RNase P RNA. All replacements, however, exact a cost on organismal fitness, and particularly on the rate of growth acceleration, defined as the time required to reach maximal growth rate. Our data suggest that the similarity of the heterolog to the endogenous version — whether defined at the sequence, structure or codon usage level — does not predict the fitness costs of the replacement. The common assumption that sequence similarity predicts functional similarity requires experimental confirmation and may prove to be an oversimplification.
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Turrini, Paula C.G.; Loveland, Jasmine L.; and Dorit, Robert L., "By Any Other Name: Heterologous Replacement of the Escherichia coli RNase P Protein Subunit Has In Vivo Fitness Consequences" (2012). Biological Sciences: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.