Biochimie 2019 Apr 14. Epub 2019 Apr 14.
CNRS UMR8261, IBPC, 13 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75005, Paris, France. Electronic address:
Prokaryotes encounter constant and often brutal modifications to their environment. In order to survive, they need to maintain fitness, which includes adapting their protein expression patterns. Many factors control gene expression but this review focuses on just one, namely antisense RNAs (asRNAs), a class of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) characterized by their location in cis and their perfect complementarity with their targets. asRNAs were considered for a long time to be trivial and only to be found on mobile genetic elements. However, recent advances in methodology have revealed that their abundance and potential activities have been underestimated. This review aims to illustrate the role of asRNA in various physiologically crucial functions in both archaea and bacteria, which can be regrouped in three categories: cell maintenance, horizontal gene transfer and virulence. A literature survey of asRNAs demonstrates the difficulties to characterize and assign a role to asRNAs. With the aim of facilitating this task, we describe recent technological advances that could be of interest to identify new asRNAs and to discover their function.