The influenza A segment 7 mRNA 3′ splice site pseudoknot/hairpin family
The 3′ splice site of the influenza A segment 7 transcript is utilized to produce mRNA for the critical M2 ion-channel protein. In solution a 63 nt fragment that includes this region can adopt two conformations: a pseudoknot and a hairpin. In each conformation, the splice site, a binding site for the SF2/ASF exonic splicing enhancer and a polypyrimidine tract, each exists in a different structural context. The most dramatic difference occurs for the splice site. In the hairpin the splice site is between two residues that are involved in a 2 by 2 nucleotide internal loop. In the pseudoknot, however, these bases are canonically paired within one of the pseudoknotted helices. The conformational switching observed in this region has implications for the regulation of splicing of the segment 7 mRNA. A measure of stability of the structures also shows interesting trends with respect to host specificity: avian strains tend to be the most stable, followed by swine and then human.
Emerging views about the molecular structure of the spliceosomal catalytic center
Pre-mRNA splicing occurs in two chemical steps that are catalyzed by a large, dynamic RNA-protein complex called the spliceosome. Initially assembled in a catalytically inactive form, the spliceosome undergoes massive compositional and conformational remodeling, through which disparate RNA elements are re-configured and juxtaposed into a functional catalytic center. The intricate construction of the catalytic center requires the assistance of spliceosomal proteins. Recent structure-function analyses have demonstrated that the yeast-splicing factor Cwc2 is a main player that contacts and shapes the catalytic center of the spliceosome into a functional conformation. With this advance, corroborated by the atomic structure of the evolutionarily related group IIC introns, our understanding of the organization and formation of the spliceosomal catalytic center has progressed to a new level.
mRNA vaccines combine desirable immunological properties with an outstanding safety profile and the unmet flexibility of genetic vaccines. Based on in situ protein expression, mRNA vaccines are capable of inducing a balanced immune response comprising both cellular and humoral immunity while not subject to MHC haplotype restriction. In addition, mRNA is an intrinsically safe vector as it is a minimal and only transient carrier of information that does not interact with the genome. Because any protein can be expressed from mRNA without the need to adjust the production process, mRNA vaccines also offer maximum flexibility with respect to development. Taken together, mRNA presents a promising vector that may well become the basis of a game-changing vaccine technology platform. Here, we outline the current knowledge regarding different aspects that should be considered when developing an mRNA-based vaccine technology.
The human tRNA m5C methyltransferase Misu is multisite-specific
The human tRNA m5C methyltransferase Misu is a novel downstream target of the proto-oncogene Myc that participates in controlling cell division and proliferation. Misu catalyzes the transfer of a methyl group from S-adenosyl-L-methionine to carbon 5 of cytosines in tRNAs. It was previously shown to catalyze in vitro the intron-dependent formation of m5C at the first position of the anticodon (position 34) within the human pre-tRNALeu(CAA). In addition, it was recently reported that C48 and C49 are methylated in vivo by Misu. We report here the expression of hMisu in Escherichia coli and its purification to homogeneity. We show that this enzyme methylates position 48 in tRNALeu(CAA) with or without intron and positions 48, 49 and 50 in tRNAGly2(GCC) in vitro. Therefore, hMisu is the enzyme responsible for the methylation of at least four cytosines in human tRNAs. By comparison, the orthologous yeast enzyme Trm4 catalyzes the methylation of carbon 5 of cytosine at positions 34, 40, 48 or 49 depending on the tRNAs.
SPLOOCE: A new portal for the analysis of human splicing variants
Understanding alternative splicing is crucial to elucidate the mechanisms behind several biological phenomena, including diseases. The huge amount of expressed sequences available nowadays represents an opportunity and a challenge to catalog and display alternative splicing events (ASEs). Although several groups have faced this challenge with relative success, we still lack a computational tool that uses a simple and straightforward method to retrieve, name and present ASEs. Here we present SPLOOCE, a portal for the analysis of human splicing variants. SPLOOCE uses a method based on regular expressions for retrieval of ASEs. We propose a simple syntax that is able to capture the complexity of ASEs.
Secondary RNA structure and nucleotide specificity contribute to internal initiation mediated by the human tau 5′ leader
Mechanisms by which eukaryotic internal ribosomal entry sites (IRESs) initiate translation have not been well described. Viral IRESs utilize a combination of secondary/tertiary structure concomitant with sequence specific elements to initiate translation. Eukaryotic IRESs are proposed to utilize the same components, although it appears that short sequence specific elements are more common. In this report we perform an extensive analysis of the IRES in the human tau mRNA. We demonstrate that the tau IRES exhibits characteristics similar to viral IRESs. It contains two main structural domains that exhibit secondary interactions, which are essential for internal initiation. Moreover, the tau IRES is extremely sensitive to small nucleotide substitutions. Our data also indicates that the 40S ribosome is recruited to the middle of the IRES, but whether it scans to the initiation codon in a linear fashion is questioned. Overall, these results identify structural and sequence elements critical for tau IRES activity and consequently, provide a novel target to regulate tau protein expression in disease states including Alzheimer disease and other tauopathies.
Expression and regulation of mouse selenoprotein P transcript variants differing in non-coding RNA
Selenoprotein P (Sepp1), a glycoprotein rich in selenium, is thought to function in selenium transport throughout the body. The sepp1 gene locus potentially produces three alternative transcripts that differ only in their 5′ untranslated regions (5′UTRs) and not in their protein coding regions, as indicated by transcript information in genomic databases. Here we investigated the distribution, relative expression, and biological significance of these transcript variants. We confirmed the expression of Sepp1 transcript variants using PCR and sequencing. Using 5′-RACE, we identified multiple 5′-termini upstream from three different splice donor sites, and a single splice acceptor site for exon 2. We found regional and temporal changes in variant expression in select adult and neonate murine tissue and brain regions. Distribution of variants in heart and kidney varied with stage of development. Notably, the Sepp1b variant was localized specifically to the hippocampus in brain. Targeted silencing of individual variants using RNAi demonstrated the biological importance for all transcript variants in cell viability. Additionally, we determined that the Sepp1b variant is a specific target for the miR-7 microRNA by means of its unique 5′UTR structure. Our results emphasize the importance of non-coding transcript variations as a regulatory means for Sepp1 expression in different tissues and stages of development. The presence of a variant localized in the hippocampus and regulated by a microRNA may have implications for the known deficits in synaptic function caused by genetic deletion of Sepp1.
Identification of hundreds of novel UPF1 target transcripts by direct determination of whole transcriptome stability
UPF1 eliminates aberrant mRNAs harboring premature termination codons, and regulates the steady-state levels of normal physiological mRNAs. Although genome-wide studies of UPF1 targets performed, previous studies did not distinguish indirect UPF1 targets because they could not determine UPF1-dependent altered RNA stabilities. Here, we measured the decay rates of the whole transcriptome in UPF1-depleted HeLa cells using BRIC-seq, an inhibitor-free method for directly measuring RNA stability. We determined the half-lives and expression levels of 9,229 transcripts. An amount of 785 transcripts were stabilized in UPF1-depleted cells. Among these, the expression levels of 76 transcripts were increased, but those of the other 709 transcripts were not altered. RNA immunoprecipitation showed UPF1 bound to the stabilized transcripts, suggesting that UPF1 directly degrades the 709 transcripts. Many UPF1 targets in this study were newly identified. This study clearly demonstrates that direct determination of RNA stability is a powerful approach for identifying targets of RNA degradation factors.
Long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs) show tissue-specific, mosaic genome and methylation-unrestricted, widespread expression of noncoding RNAs in somatic tissues of the rat
We report strong somatic and germ line expression of LINE RNAs in eight different tissues of rat by using a novel ~2.8 kb genomic PstI-LINE DNA (P1-LINE) isolated from the rat brain. P1-LINE is present in a 93 kb LINE-SINE-cluster in sub-telomeric region of chromosome 12 (12p12) and as multiple truncated copies interspersed in all rat chromosomes. P1-LINEs occur as inverted repeats at multiple genomic loci in tissue-specific and mosaic patterns. P1-LINE RNAs are strongly expressed in brain, liver, lungs, heart, kidney, testes, spleen and thymus into large to small heterogeneous RNAs (~5.0 to 0.2 kb) in tissue-specific and dynamic patterns in individual rats. P1-LINE DNA is strongly methylated at CpG-dinucleotides in most genomic copies in all the tissues and weakly hypomethylated in few copies in some tissues. Small (700–75 nt) P1-LINE RNAs expressed in all tissues may be possible precursors for small regulatory RNAs (PIWI-interacting/piRNAs) bioinformatically derived from P1-LINE. The strong and dynamic expression of LINE RNAs from multiple chromosomal loci and the putative piRNAs in somatic tissues of rat under normal physiological conditions may define functional chromosomal domains marked by LINE RNAs as long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) unrestricted by DNA methylation. The tissue-specific, dynamic RNA expression and mosaic genomic distribution of LINEs representing a steady-state genomic flux of retrotransposon RNAs suggest for biological role of LINE RNAs as long ncRNAs and small piRNAs in mammalian tissues independent of their cellular fate for translation, reverse-transcription and retrotransposition. This may provide evolutionary advantages to LINEs and mammalian genomes.