Zhen Liao & Alexandre Smirnov
Biosci Rep (2023) 43 (3): BSR20220313
RNA-binding proteins are key actors of post-transcriptional networks. Almost exclusively studied in the light of their interactions with RNA ligands and the associated functional events, they are still poorly understood as evolutionary units. In this review, we discuss the FinO/ProQ family of bacterial RNA chaperones, how they evolve and spread across bacterial populations and what properties and opportunities they provide to their host cells. We reflect on major conserved and divergent themes within the family, trying to understand how the same ancestral RNA-binding fold, augmented with additional structural elements, could yield either highly specialised proteins or, on the contrary, globally acting regulatory hubs with a pervasive impact on gene expression. We also consider dominant convergent evolutionary trends that shaped their RNA chaperone activity and recurrently implicated the FinO/ProQ-like proteins in bacterial DNA metabolism, translation and virulence. Finally, we offer a new perspective in which FinO/ProQ-family regulators emerge as active evolutionary players with both negative and positive roles, significantly impacting the evolutionary modes and trajectories of their bacterial hosts.