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Ribosome biogenesis is a complex process involving multiple factors. Here, we show that the widely conserved RNA chaperone Hfq, which can regulate sRNA-mRNA basepairing, plays a critical role in rRNA processing and ribosome assembly in Escherichia coli Hfq binds the 17S rRNA precursor and facilitates its correct processing and folding to mature 16S rRNA Hfq assists ribosome assembly and associates with pre-30S particles but not with mature 30S subunits. Inactivation of Hfq strikingly decreases the pool of mature 70S ribosomes. The reduction in ribosome levels depends on residues located in the distal face of Hfq but not on residues found in the proximal and rim surfaces which govern interactions with the sRNAs. Our results indicate that Hfq-mediated regulation of ribosomes is independent of its function as sRNA-regulator. Furthermore, we observed that inactivation of Hfq compromises translation efficiency and fidelity, both features of aberrantly assembled ribosomes. Our work expands the functions of the Sm-like protein Hfq beyond its function in small RNA-mediated regulation and unveils a novel role of Hfq as crucial in ribosome biogenesis and translation.

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rRNA , Hfq, ribosome biogenesis, translation, Escherichia coli, Escherichia coli Proteins, Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial, Host Factor 1 Protein, Protein Biosynthesis, RNA Precursors, RNA, Messenger, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S, RNA, Small Untranslated, RNA-Binding Proteins, Ribosomal Proteins, Ribosomes