PNPase, one of the major enzymes with 3'-to-5' single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) degradation and processing activities, can interact with the RNA helicase RhlB independently of RNA degradosome formation in E. coli. Here, we report that loss of interaction between RhlB and PNPase impacts cysteine homeostasis in E. coli. By random mutagenesis, we identified a mutant RhlBP238L that loses 75% of its ability to interact with PNPase, but retains normal interaction with RNase E and RNA, in addition to exhibiting normal helicase activity. Applying microarray analyses to an E. coli strain with impaired RNA degradosome formation, we investigated the biological consequences of a weakened interaction between RhlB and PNPase. We found significant increases in 11 out of 14 genes involved in cysteine biosynthesis. Subsequent Northern blot analyses showed that the upregulated transcripts were the result of stabilization of the cysB transcript encoding a transcriptional activator for the cys operons. Furthermore, Northern blots of PNPase or RhlB mutants showed that RhlB-PNPase plays both a catalytic and structural role in regulating cysB degradation. Cells expressing the RhlBP238L mutant exhibited an increase in intracellular cysteine and an enhanced anti-oxidative response. Collectively, this study suggests a mechanism by which bacteria use the PNPase-RhlB exosome-like complex to combat oxidative stress by modulating cysB mRNA degradation.