Multiple small RNAs identified in Mycobacterium bovis BCG are also expressed in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium smegmatis.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a major global health problem, infecting millions of people each year. The causative agent of TB, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is one of the world's most ancient and successful pathogens. However, until recently, no work on small regulatory RNAs had been performed in this organism. Regulatory RNAs are found in all three domains of life, and have already been shown to regulate virulence in well-known pathogens, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Vibrio cholera. Here we report the discovery of 34 novel small RNAs (sRNAs) in the TB-complex M. bovis BCG, using a combination of experimental and computational approaches. Putative homologues of many of these sRNAs were also identified in M. tuberculosis and/or M. smegmatis. Those sRNAs that are also expressed in the non-pathogenic M. smegmatis could be functioning to regulate conserved cellular functions. In contrast, those sRNAs identified specifically in M. tuberculosis could be functioning in mediation of virulence, thus rendering them potential targets for novel antimycobacterials. Various features and regulatory aspects of some of these sRNAs are discussed.