A novel molecular mechanism in human genetic disease: A DNA repeat-derived lncRNA
Two thirds of the human genome is composed of repetitive sequences. Despite their prevalence, DNA repeats are largely ignored. The vast majority of our genome is transcribed to produce non protein-coding RNAs. Among these, long non protein-coding RNAs represent the most prevalent and functionally diverse class. The relevance of the non protein-coding genome to human disease has mainly been studied regarding the altered microRNA expression and function in human cancer. On the contrary, the elucidation of the involvement of long non-coding RNAs in disease is only in its infancy. We have recently found that a chromatin associated, long non protein-coding RNA regulates a Polycomb/Trithorax epigenetic switch at the basis of the repeat associated facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, a common muscle disorder. Based on this, we propose that long non-coding RNAs produced by repetitive sequences contribute in shaping the epigenetic landscape in normal human physiology and in disease.
Mechanisms that impact microRNA stability in plants
microRNAs (miRNAs) are 20–24 nucleotide RNAs that regulate a variety of developmental and metabolic processes. The accumulation of miRNAs in vivo can be controlled at multiple levels. In addition to miRNA biogenesis, mechanisms that lead to RNA degradation, such as 3′ uridylation and 3′ truncation, also affect the steady-state levels of miRNAs. On the other hand, 2’-O-methylation in plant miRNAs protects their 3′ ends from truncation and uridylation. The recent identification of HESO1 as the key enzyme responsible for miRNA uridylation in Arabidopsis was a first step toward a full understanding of the mechanisms underlying miRNA turnover. Analyses of the heso1 mutant predicted the existence of another uridylation activity and a previously unknown nuclease that act on miRNAs. The future identification of these enzymes will enrich our understanding of miRNA turnover.
Tuning the engine: An introduction to resources on post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression
In the last years post-transcriptional regulation (PTR) of gene expression has been increasingly recognized to be a powerful and general determinant of the quantitative changes in proteomes, and therefore a driving force for cell phenotypes. By means of networks of trans-factors on one hand, and cis-elements found primarily in untranslated regions (UTRs) of mRNA on the other hand, mRNA availability to translation and translation rates are tightly controlled and can be rapidly tuned according to the changing state of the cell. A number of dedicated resources and tools, including databases and predictive algorithms, have been proposed as bioinformatics aids for the study of this fundamental layer of gene expression regulation. Their use, however, is rendered difficult by heterogeneity and fragmentation.
This review aims to locate these resources in their proper space, classifying them according to their goals, limitations and integration capabilities and, in the end, to provide the user with an initial toolbox for the bioinformatic analysis of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. The accompanying website, available at www.ptrguide.org, lists all resources, provides summary and features for each one and will be regularly updated in the future.
Genome-wide technology for determining RNA stability in mammalian cells: Historical perspective and recent advantages based on modified nucleotide labeling
Changing the abundance of transcripts by regulated RNA degradation is a critical step in the control of various biological pathways. Recently, genome-wide inhibitor-free technologies for determining RNA stabilities in mammalian cells have been developed. In these methods, endogenous RNAs are pulse labeled by uridine analogs [e.g., 4-thiouridine (4sU), 5-etyniluridine (EU) and 5′-bromo-uridine (BrU)], followed by purification of labeled de novo RNAs. These technologies have revealed that the specific half-life of each mRNA is closely related to its physiological function. Genes with short-lived mRNAs are significantly enriched among regulatory genes, while genes with long-lived mRNAs are enriched among housekeeping genes. This review describes the recent progress of experimental procedures for measuring RNA stability.
The absence of A-to-I editing in the anticodon of plant cytoplasmic tRNAArgACG demands a relaxation of the wobble decoding rules
It is a prevalent concept that, in line with the Wobble Hypothesis, those tRNAs having an adenosine in the first position of the anticodon become modified to an inosine at this position. Sequencing the cDNA derived from the gene coding for cytoplasmic tRNAArgACG from several higher plants as well as mass spectrometric analysis of the isoacceptor has revealed that for this kingdom an unmodified A in the wobble position of the anticodon is the rule rather than the exception. In vitro translation shows that in the plant system the absence of inosine in the wobble position of tRNAArg does not prevent decoding. This isoacceptor belongs to the class of tRNA that is imported from the cytoplasm into the mitochondria of higher plants. Previous studies on the mitochondrial tRNA pool have demonstrated the existence of tRNAArgICG in this organelle. In moss the mitochondrial encoded distinct tRNAArgACG isoacceptor possesses the I34 modification. The implication is that for mitochondrial protein biosynthesis A-to-I editing is necessary and occurs by a mitochondrion-specific deaminase after import of the unmodified nuclear encoded tRNAArgACG.
Alterations in microRNA (miRNA) expression have been observed in cells subjected to exogenous stresses, implying that miRNAs play an important role in cellular stress response; however, the underlying mechanism is still largely unknown. In the present study, we found that miR-3928 was implicated in cellular response to ionizing radiation. After exposed to X-rays, miR-3928 expression increased in 1.5 h and then decreased, meanwhile Dicer, a key component in the miRNA processing machinery, increased gradually. An oscillation was observed in the expression of both mature miR-3928 and Dicer mRNA from 2 h to 3.5 h in irradiated cells. Then, we verified that miR-3928 directly bound to the 3'-untranslated region of Dicer mRNA. Consequently, Dicer expression was suppressed and the maturation of other miRNAs including miR-185, miR-300, and miR-663, was inhibited. Overexpression of miR-3928 induced DNA damage, activated ATR, and phosphorylated Chk1 accompanied by G1 arrest. Taken together, these findings replenished ATR/Chk1 pathway by revealing a novel miRNA regulatory network in response to exogenous stress, in which miR-3928 plays an important role in regulating the expression of Dicer.
Novel upstream and downstream sequence elements contribute to polyadenylation efficiency
Polyadenylation is a 3′ mRNA processing event that contributes to gene expression by affecting stability, export and translation of mRNA. Human polyadenylation signals (PAS) have core and auxiliary elements that bind polyadenylation factors upstream and downstream of the cleavage site. The majority of mRNAs do not have optimal upstream and downstream core elements and therefore auxiliary elements can aid in polyadenylation efficiency.
Auxiliary elements have previously been identified and studied in a small number of mRNAs. We previously used a global approach to examine auxiliary elements to identify overrepresented motifs by a bioinformatic survey. This predicted information was used to direct our in vivo validation studies, all of which were accomplished using both a tandem in vivo polyadenylation assay and using reporter protein assays measured as luciferase activity. Novel auxiliary elements were placed in a test polyadenylation signal. An in vivo polyadenylation assay was used to determine the strength of the polyadenylation signal. All but one of the novel auxiliary elements enhanced the test polyadenylation signal. Effects of these novel auxiliary elements were also measured by a luciferase assay when placed in the 3′ UTR of a firefly luciferase reporter. Two novel downstream auxiliary elements and all of the novel upstream auxiliary elements showed an increase in reporter protein levels.
Many well known auxiliary polyadenylation elements have been found to occur in multiple sets. However, in our study, multiple copies of novel auxiliary elements brought reporter protein levels as well as polyadenylation choice back to wild type levels. Structural features of these novel auxiliary elements may also affect the role of auxiliary elements. A MS2 structure placed upstream of the polyadenylation signal can affect polyadenylation in both the positive and negative direction. A large change in RNA structure by using novel complementary auxiliary element also decreased polyadenylation choice and reporter protein levels. Therefore, we conclude that RNA structure has an important role in polyadenylation efficiency.
Specific temperature-induced perturbations of secondary mRNA structures are associated with the cold-adapted temperature-sensitive phenotype of influenza A virus
For decades, cold-adapted, temperature-sensitive (ca/ts) strains of influenza A virus have been used as live attenuated vaccines. Due to their great public health importance it is crucial to understand the molecular mechanism(s) of cold adaptation and temperature sensitivity that are currently unknown. For instance, secondary RNA structures play important roles in influenza biology. Thus, we hypothesized that a relatively minor change in temperature (32–39°C) can lead to perturbations in influenza RNA structures and, that these structural perturbations may be different for mRNAs of the wild type (wt) and ca/ts strains. To test this hypothesis, we developed a novel in silico method that enables assessing whether two related RNA molecules would undergo (dis)similar structural perturbations upon temperature change. The proposed method allows identifying those areas within an RNA chain where dissimilarities of RNA secondary structures at two different temperatures are particularly pronounced, without knowing particular RNA shapes at either temperature. We identified such areas in the NS2, PA, PB2 and NP mRNAs. However, these areas are not identical for the wt and ca/ts mutants. Differences in temperature-induced structural changes of wt and ca/ts mRNA structures may constitute a yet unappreciated molecular mechanism of the cold adaptation/temperature sensitivity phenomena.
Dose-dependent differential mRNA target selection and regulation by let-7a-7f and miR-17-92 cluster microRNAs
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important players of post-transcriptional gene regulation. Individual miRNAs can target multiple mRNAs and a single mRNA can be targeted by many miRNAs. We hypothesized that miRNAs select and regulate their targets based on their own expression levels, those of their target mRNAs and triggered feedback loops. We studied the effects of varying concentrations of let-7a-7f and the miR-17-92 cluster plasmids on the reporter genes carrying either DICER- or cMYC -3′UTR in Huh-7 cells. We showed that let-7 significantly downregulated expression of DICER 3′UTR reporter at lower concentrations, but selectively downregulated expression of a cMYC 3′UTR reporter at higher dose. This miRNA dose-dependent target selection was also confirmed in other target genes, including CCND1, CDKN1 and E2F1. After overexpressing let-7a-7f or the miR-17-92 clusters at wide-ranging doses, the target genes displayed a nonlinear correlation to the transfected miRNA. Further, by comparing the expression levels of let-7a and miR-17-5p, along with their selected target genes in 3 different cell lines, we found that the knockdown dose of each miRNA was directly related to their baseline expression level, that of the target gene and feedback loops. These findings were supported by gene modulation studies using endogenous levels of miR-29, -1 and -206 and a luciferase reporter system in multiple cell lines. Finally, we determined that the miR-17-92 cluster affected cell viability in a dose-dependent manner. In conclusion, we have shown that miRNAs potentially select their targets in a dose-dependent and nonlinear fashion that affects biological function; and this represents a novel mechanism by which miRNAs orchestrate the finely tuned balance of cell function.
The 70S ribosome modulates the ATPase activity of Escherichia coli YchF
YchF is one of two universally conserved GTPases with unknown cellular function. As a first step toward elucidating YchF’s cellular role, we performed a detailed biochemical characterization of the protein from Escherichia coli. Our data from fluorescence titrations not only confirmed the surprising finding that YchFE.coli binds adenine nucleotides more efficiently than guanine nucleotides, but also provides the first evidence suggesting that YchF assumes two distinct conformational states (ATP- and ADP-bound) consistent with the functional cycle of a typical GTPase. Based on an in vivo pull-down experiment using a His-tagged variant of YchF from E. coli (YchFE.coli), we were able to isolate a megadalton complex containing the 70S ribosome. Based on this finding, we report the successful reconstitution of a YchF•70S complex in vitro, revealing an affinity (KD) of the YchFE.coli•ADPNP complex for 70S ribosomes of 3 μM. The in vitro reconstitution data also suggests that the identity of the nucleotide-bound state of YchF (ADP or ATP) modulates its affinity for 70S ribosomes. A detailed Michaelis-Menten analysis of YchF’s catalytic activity in the presence and the absence of the 70S ribosome and its subunits revealed for the first time that the 70S ribosome is able to stimulate YchF’s ATPase activity (~10-fold), confirming the ribosome as part of the functional cycle of YchF. Our findings taken together with previously reported data for the human homolog of YchF (hOLA1) indicate a high level of evolutionary conservation in the enzymatic properties of YchF and suggest that the ribosome is the main functional partner of YchF not only in bacteria.