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1.  Malleable ribonucleoprotein machine: protein intrinsic disorder in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae spliceosome 
PeerJ  2013;1:e2.
Recent studies revealed that a significant fraction of any given proteome is presented by proteins that do not have unique 3D structures as a whole or in significant parts. These intrinsically disordered proteins possess dramatic structural and functional variability, being especially enriched in signaling and regulatory functions since their lack of fixed structure defines their ability to be involved in interaction with several proteins and allows them to be re-used in multiple pathways. Among recognized disorder-based protein functions are interactions with nucleic acids and multi-target binding; i.e., the functions ascribed to many spliceosomal proteins. Therefore, the spliceosome, a multimegadalton ribonucleoprotein machine catalyzing the excision of introns from eukaryotic pre-mRNAs, represents an attractive target for the focused analysis of the abundance and functionality of intrinsic disorder in its proteinaceous components. In yeast cells, spliceosome consists of five small nuclear RNAs (U1, U2, U4, U5, and U6) and a range of associated proteins. Some of these proteins constitute cores of the corresponding snRNA-protein complexes known as small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). Other spliceosomal proteins have various auxiliary functions. To gain better understanding of the functional roles of intrinsic disorder, we have studied the prevalence of intrinsically disordered proteins in the yeast spliceosome using a wide array of bioinformatics methods. Our study revealed that similar to the proteins associated with human spliceosomes (Korneta & Bujnicki, 2012), proteins found in the yeast spliceosome are enriched in intrinsic disorder.
PMCID: PMC3628832  PMID: 23638354
Spliceosome; Intrinsically disordered protein; Protein structure; RNA–protein complex; Protein–protein interaction; Intrinsic disorder; Protein–RNA interaction; Protein hub; Splicing; Protein function
2.  The spliceosomal proteome: at the heart of the largest cellular ribonucleoprotein machine 
Proteomics  2010;10(22):4128-4141.
Almost all primary transcripts in higher eukaryotes undergo several splicing events and alternative splicing is a major factor in generating proteomic diversity. Thus, the spliceosome, the ribonucleoprotein assembly that performs splicing, is a highly critical cellular machine and as expected, a very complex one. Indeed, the spliceosome is one of the largest, if not the largest, molecular machine in the cell with over 150 different components in human. A large fraction of the spliceosomal proteome is organized into ribonucleoprotein particles (snRNPs) by associating with one of the small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs), and the function of many spliceosomal proteins revolve around their association or interaction with the spliceosomal RNAs or the substrate pre-messenger RNAs. In addition to the complex web of protein-RNA interactions, an equally complex network of protein-protein interactions exists in the spliceosome which includes a number of large, conserved proteins with critical functions in the spliceosomal catalytic core. These include the largest conserved nuclear protein, Prp8, which plays a critical role in spliceosomal function in a hitherto unknown manner. Taken together, the large spliceosomal proteome and its dynamic nature has made it a highly challenging system to study, and at the same time, provides an exciting example of the evolution of a proteome around a backbone of primordial RNAs likely dating from the RNA World.
PMCID: PMC3575088  PMID: 21080498
Proteome; Prp8; RNA helicases; Spliceosome; Splicing
3.  A bird’s-eye view of post-translational modifications in the spliceosome and their roles in spliceosome dynamics† 
Molecular bioSystems  2010;6(11):2093-2102.
Pre-mRNA splicing, the removal of noncoding intron sequences from the pre-mRNA, is a critical reaction in eukaryotic gene expression. Pre-mRNA splicing is carried out by a remarkable macromolecular machine, the spliceosome, which undergoes dynamic rearrangements of its RNA and protein components to assemble its catalytic center. While significant progress has been made in describing the “moving parts” of this machine, the mechanisms by which spliceosomal proteins mediate the ordered rearrangements within the spliceosome remain elusive. Here we explore recent evidence from proteomics studies revealing extensive post-translational modification of splicing factors. While the functional significance of most of these modifications remains to be characterized, we describe recent studies in which the roles of specific post-translational modifications of splicing factors have been characterized. These examples illustrate the importance of post-translational modifications in spliceosome dynamics
PMCID: PMC4065859  PMID: 20672149
4.  Insights into the activation of the helicase Prp43 by biochemical studies and structural mass spectrometry 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(2):1162-1179.
Splicing of precursor messenger RNA is a hallmark of eukaryotic cells, which is carried out by the spliceosome, a multi-megadalton ribonucleoprotein machinery. The splicing reaction removes non-coding regions (introns) and ligates coding regions (exons). The spliceosome is a highly dynamic ribonucleoprotein complex that undergoes dramatic structural changes during its assembly, the catalysis and its disassembly. The transitions between the different steps during the splicing cycle are promoted by eight conserved DExD/H box ATPases. The DEAH-box protein Prp43 is responsible for the disassembly of the intron-lariat spliceosome and its helicase activity is activated by the G-patch protein Ntr1. Here, we investigate the activation of Prp43 by Ntr1 in the presence and absence of RNA substrate by functional assays and structural proteomics. Residues 51–110 of Ntr1 were identified to be the minimal fragment that induces full activation. We found protein–protein cross-links that indicate that Prp43 interacts with the G-patch motif of Ntr1 through its C-terminal domains. Additionally, we report on functionally important RNA binding residues in both proteins and propose a model for the activation of the helicase.
PMCID: PMC3902948  PMID: 24165877
5.  Detailed close-ups and the big picture of spliceosomes 
The spliceosome is the huge macromolecular assembly responsible for the removal of introns from pre-mRNA transcripts. The size and complexity of this dynamic cellular machine dictates that structural analysis of the spliceosome is best served by a combination of techniques. Electron microscopy is providing a more global, albeit less detailed, view of spliceosome assemblies. X-ray crystallographers and NMR spectroscopists are steadily reporting more atomic resolution structures of individual spliceosome components and fragments. Increasingly, structures of these individual pieces in complex with binding partners are yielding insights into the interfaces that hold the entire spliceosome assembly together. Although the information arising from the various structural studies of splicing machinery has not yet fully converged into a complete model, we can expect that a detailed understanding of spliceosome structure will arise at the juncture of structural and computational modeling methods.
PMCID: PMC2474778  PMID: 18550358
6.  PRPF mutations are associated with generalized defects in spliceosome formation and pre-mRNA splicing in patients with retinitis pigmentosa 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(11):2116-2130.
Proteins PRPF31, PRPF3 and PRPF8 (RP-PRPFs) are ubiquitously expressed components of the spliceosome, a macromolecular complex that processes nearly all pre-mRNAs. Although these spliceosomal proteins are conserved in eukaryotes and are essential for survival, heterozygous mutations in human RP-PRPF genes lead to retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary disease restricted to the eye. Using cells from patients with 10 different mutations, we show that all clinically relevant RP-PRPF defects affect the stoichiometry of spliceosomal small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs), the protein composition of tri-small nuclear ribonucleoproteins and the kinetics of spliceosome assembly. These mutations cause inefficient splicing in vitro and affect constitutive splicing ex-vivo by impairing the removal of at least 9% of endogenously expressed introns. Alternative splicing choices are also affected when RP-PRPF defects are present. Furthermore, we show that the steady-state levels of snRNAs and processed pre-mRNAs are highest in the retina, indicating a particularly elevated splicing activity. Our results suggest a role for PRPFs defects in the etiology of PRPF-linked retinitis pigmentosa, which appears to be a truly systemic splicing disease. Although these mutations cause widespread and important splicing defects, they are likely tolerated by the majority of human tissues but are critical for retinal cell survival.
PMCID: PMC3090192  PMID: 21378395
7.  New Insights into the Spliceosome by Single Molecule Fluorescence Microscopy 
Splicing is an essential eukaryotic process in which introns are excised from precursors to messenger RNAs and exons ligated together. This reaction is catalyzed by a multi-MegaDalton machine called the spliceosome, composed of 5 small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs) and a core set of ~100 proteins minimally required for activity. Due to the spliceosome’s size, its low abundance in cellular extracts, and its highly dynamic assembly pathway, analysis of the kinetics of splicing and the conformational rearrangements occurring during spliceosome assembly and disassembly has proven extraordinarily challenging. Here, we review recent progress in combining chemical biology methodologies with single molecule fluorescence techniques to provide a window into splicing in real time. These methods complement ensemble measurements of splicing in vivo and in vitro to facilitate kinetic dissection of pre-mRNA splicing.
PMCID: PMC3310177  PMID: 22057211
8.  The Crystal Structure of PPIL1 Bound to Cyclosporine A Suggests a Binding Mode for a Linear Epitope of the SKIP Protein 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10013.
The removal of introns from pre-mRNA is carried out by a large macromolecular machine called the spliceosome. The peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans isomerase PPIL1 is a component of the human spliceosome and binds to the spliceosomal SKIP protein via a binding site distinct from its active site.
Principal Findings
Here, we have studied the PPIL1 protein and its interaction with SKIP biochemically and by X-ray crystallography. A minimal linear binding epitope derived from the SKIP protein could be determined using a peptide array. A 36-residue region of SKIP centred on an eight-residue epitope suffices to bind PPIL1 in pull-down experiments. The crystal structure of PPIL1 in complex with the inhibitor cyclosporine A (CsA) was obtained at a resolution of 1.15 Å and exhibited two bound Cd2+ ions that enabled SAD phasing. PPIL1 residues that have previously been implicated in binding of SKIP are involved in the coordination of Cd2+ ions in the present crystal structure. Employing the present crystal structure, the determined minimal binding epitope and previously published NMR data [1], a molecular docking study was performed. In the docked model of the PPIL1·SKIP interaction, a proline residue of SKIP is buried in a hydrophobic pocket of PPIL1. This hydrophobic contact is encircled by several hydrogen bonds between the SKIP peptide and PPIL1.
We characterized a short, linear epitope of SKIP that is sufficient to bind the PPIL1 protein. Our data indicate that this SKIP peptide could function in recruiting PPIL1 into the core of the spliceosome. We present a molecular model for the binding mode of SKIP to PPIL1 which emphasizes the versatility of cyclophilin-type PPIases to engage in additional interactions with other proteins apart from active site contacts despite their limited surface area.
PMCID: PMC2848857  PMID: 20368803
9.  Biased Brownian ratcheting leads to pre-mRNA remodeling and capture prior to first-step splicing 
Nature structural & molecular biology  2013;20(12):10.1038/nsmb.2704.
The spliceosome is a dynamic ribonucleoprotein (RNP) machine that catalyzes the removal of introns in the two transesterification steps of eukaryotic pre-mRNA splicing. Here we used single molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer to monitor the distance of the 5′ splice site (5′SS) and branchpoint (BP) of pre-mRNA in affinity-purified spliceosomes stalled by a mutation in the DExD/H-box helicase Prp2 immediately prior to the first splicing step. Addition of recombinant Prp2 together with NTP and protein cofactor Spp2 rearranges the spliceosome-substrate complex to reversibly explore conformations with proximal 5′SS and BP that accommodate chemistry. Addition of Cwc25 then strongly biases this equilibrium towards the proximal conformation, promoting efficient first-step splicing. The spliceosome thus functions as a biased Brownian ratchet machine where a helicase unlocks thermal fluctuations subsequently rectified by a cofactor “pawl”, a principle possibly widespread among the many helicase-driven RNPs.
PMCID: PMC3867266  PMID: 24240612
10.  U12-type Spliceosomal Introns of Insecta 
Most of eukaryotic genes are interrupted by introns that need to be removed from pre-mRNAs before they can perform their function. This is done by complex machinery called spliceosome. Many eukaryotes possess two separate spliceosomal systems that process separate sets of introns. The major (U2) spliceosome removes majority of introns, while minute fraction of intron repertoire is processed by the minor (U12) spliceosome. These two populations of introns are called U2-type and U12-type, respectively. The latter fall into two subtypes based on the terminal dinucleotides. The minor spliceosomal system has been lost independently in some lineages, while in some others few U12-type introns persist. We investigated twenty insect genomes in order to better understand the evolutionary dynamics of U12-type introns. Our work confirms dramatic drop of U12-type introns in Diptera, leaving these genomes just with a handful cases. This is mostly the result of intron deletion, but in a number of dipteral cases, minor type introns were switched to a major type, as well. Insect genes that harbor U12-type introns belong to several functional categories among which proteins binding ions and nucleic acids are enriched and these few categories are also overrepresented among these genes that preserved minor type introns in Diptera.
PMCID: PMC3291851  PMID: 22393306
U12-type introns; minor spliceosome; insect evolution.
11.  Structure of spliceosomal ribonucleoproteins 
Splicing of the precursors of eukaryotic mRNA and some non-coding RNAs is catalyzed by the ‘spliceosome’, which comprises five RNA-protein complexes (small nuclear ribonucleoproteins, or snRNPs) that assemble in an ordered manner onto precursor-mRNAs. Much progress has been made in determining the gross morphology of spliceosomal assembly intermediates. Recently, the first crystal structure of a spliceosomal snRNP has provided significant insight into assembly and architecture of spliceosomal snRNPs in general and the structure-function relationship of human U1 snRNP in particular.
PMCID: PMC2950031  PMID: 20948795
12.  Sm/Lsm Genes Provide a Glimpse into the Early Evolution of the Spliceosome 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(3):e1000315.
The spliceosome, a sophisticated molecular machine involved in the removal of intervening sequences from the coding sections of eukaryotic genes, appeared and subsequently evolved rapidly during the early stages of eukaryotic evolution. The last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA) had both complex spliceosomal machinery and some spliceosomal introns, yet little is known about the early stages of evolution of the spliceosomal apparatus. The Sm/Lsm family of proteins has been suggested as one of the earliest components of the emerging spliceosome and hence provides a first in-depth glimpse into the evolving spliceosomal apparatus. An analysis of 335 Sm and Sm-like genes from 80 species across all three kingdoms of life reveals two significant observations. First, the eukaryotic Sm/Lsm family underwent two rapid waves of duplication with subsequent divergence resulting in 14 distinct genes. Each wave resulted in a more sophisticated spliceosome, reflecting a possible jump in the complexity of the evolving eukaryotic cell. Second, an unusually high degree of conservation in intron positions is observed within individual orthologous Sm/Lsm genes and between some of the Sm/Lsm paralogs. This suggests that functional spliceosomal introns existed before the emergence of the complete Sm/Lsm family of proteins; hence, spliceosomal machinery with considerably fewer components than today's spliceosome was already functional.
Author Summary
The spliceosome is a complex molecular machine that removes intervening sequences (introns) from mRNAs. It is unique to eukaryotes. Although prokaryotes have self-splicing introns, they completely lack spliceosomal introns and the spliceosome itself. Yet even the simplest eukaryotic organisms have introns and a rather complex spliceosomal apparatus. Little is known about how this amazing machine rapidly evolved in early eukaryotes. Here, we attempt to reconstruct a part of this evolutionary process using one of the most fundamental components of the spliceosome—the Sm and Lsm family of proteins. Using sequence and structure analysis as well as the analysis of the intron positions in Sm and Lsm genes in conjunction with a wealth of published data, we propose a plausible scenario for some aspects of spliceosomal evolution. In particular, we suggest that the Lsm family of genes could have been the first and the most essential component that allowed rudimentary splicing of early spliceosomal introns. Extensive duplications of Lsm genes and the later rise of the Sm gene family likely reflect a gradual increase in complexity of the spliceosome.
PMCID: PMC2650416  PMID: 19282982
13.  Spliceosome Database: a tool for tracking components of the spliceosome 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(D1):D132-D141.
The spliceosome is the extremely complex macromolecular machine responsible for pre-mRNA splicing. It assembles from five U-rich small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs) and over 200 proteins in a highly dynamic fashion. One important challenge to studying the spliceosome is simply keeping track of all these proteins, a situation further complicated by the variety of names and identifiers that exist in the literature for them. To facilitate studies of the spliceosome and its components, we created a database of spliceosome-associated proteins and snRNAs, which is available at and can be queried through a simple browser interface. In the database, we cataloged the various names, orthologs and gene identifiers of spliceosome proteins to navigate the complex nomenclature of spliceosome proteins. We also provide links to gene and protein records for the spliceosome components in other databases. To navigate spliceosome assembly dynamics, we created tools to compare the association of spliceosome proteins with complexes that form at specific stages of spliceosome assembly based on a compendium of mass spectrometry experiments that identified proteins in purified splicing complexes. Together, the information in the database provides an easy reference for spliceosome components and will support future modeling of spliceosome structure and dynamics.
PMCID: PMC3531166  PMID: 23118483
14.  Functional roles of protein splicing factors 
Bioscience Reports  2012;32(Pt 4):345-359.
RNA splicing is one of the fundamental processes in gene expression in eukaryotes. Splicing of pre-mRNA is catalysed by a large ribonucleoprotein complex called the spliceosome, which consists of five small nuclear RNAs and numerous protein factors. The spliceosome is a highly dynamic structure, assembled by sequential binding and release of the small nuclear RNAs and protein factors. DExD/H-box RNA helicases are required to mediate structural changes in the spliceosome at various steps in the assembly pathway and have also been implicated in the fidelity control of the splicing reaction. Other proteins also play key roles in mediating the progression of the spliceosome pathway. In this review, we discuss the functional roles of the protein factors involved in the spliceosome pathway primarily from studies in the yeast system.
PMCID: PMC3392075  PMID: 22762203
protein splicing factor; RNA splicing; small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP); spliceosome; yeast; BBP, branchpoint-binding protein; CWC, complexed with Cef1; eIF4G, eukaryotic initiation factor 4G; NTC, NineTeen Complex; RRM, RNA-recognition motif; snRNA, small nuclear RNA; snRNP, small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle
15.  Emerging views about the molecular structure of the spliceosomal catalytic center 
RNA Biology  2012;9(11):1311-1318.
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.
PMCID: PMC3597571  PMID: 23064115
Cwc2; Domain V; Prp8; RNA splicing; RNA tertiary interactions; RNA-protein interaction; U6-ISL; group II introns; spliceosome; splicing catalysis
16.  The spliceosome: a flexible, reversible macromolecular machine 
Trends in biochemical sciences  2012;37(5):179-188.
With more than a hundred individual RNA and protein parts and a highly dynamic assembly and disassembly pathway, the spliceosome is arguably the most complicated macromolecular machine in the eukaryotic cell. This complexity has made kinetic and mechanistic analysis of splicing incredibly challenging. Yet recent technological advances are now providing tools for understanding this process in much greater detail. Ranging from genome-wide analyses of splicing and creation of an orthogonal spliceosome in vivo, to purification of active spliceosomes and observation of single molecules in vitro, such new experimental approaches are yielding significant insight into the inner workings of this remarkable machine. These experiments are rewriting the textbooks, with a new picture emerging of a dynamic, malleable machine heavily influenced by the identity of its pre-mRNA substrate.
PMCID: PMC3508674  PMID: 22480731
17.  Identification of the Major Spliceosomal RNAs in Dictyostelium discoideum Reveals Developmentally Regulated U2 Variants and Polyadenylated snRNAs†  
Eukaryotic Cell  2006;5(6):924-934.
Most eukaryotic mRNAs depend upon precise removal of introns by the spliceosome, a complex of RNAs and proteins. Splicing of pre-mRNA is known to take place in Dictyostelium discoideum, and we previously isolated the U2 spliceosomal RNA experimentally. In this study, we identified the remaining major spliceosomal RNAs in Dictyostelium by a bioinformatical approach. Expression was verified from 17 small nuclear RNA (snRNA) genes. All these genes are preceded by a putative noncoding RNA gene promoter. Immunoprecipitation showed that snRNAs U1, U2, U4, and U5, but not U6, carry the conserved trimethylated 5′ cap structure. A number of divergent U2 species are expressed in Dictyostelium. These RNAs carry the U2 RNA hallmark sequence and structure motifs but have an additional predicted stem-loop structure at the 5′ end. Surprisingly, and in contrast to the other spliceosomal RNAs in this study, the new U2 variants were enriched in the cytoplasm and were developmentally regulated. Furthermore, all of the snRNAs could also be detected as polyadenylated species, and polyadenylated U1 RNA was demonstrated to be located in the cytoplasm.
PMCID: PMC1489274  PMID: 16757740
18.  Ordered and Dynamic Assembly of Single Spliceosomes 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2011;331(6022):1289-1295.
The spliceosome is the complex macromolecular machine responsible for removing introns from precursors to mRNAs (pre-mRNAs). We combined yeast genetic engineering, chemical biology, and multi-wavelength fluoresence microscopy to follow assembly of single spliceosomes in real time in whole cell extracts. We find that individual spliceosomal subcomplexes associate with pre-mRNA sequentially via an ordered pathway to yield functional spliceosomes, and that association of every subcomplex is reversible. Further, early subcomplex binding events do not fully commit a pre-mRNA to splicing; rather commitment increases as assembly proceeds. These findings have important implications for the regulation of alternative splicing. This experimental strategy should prove widely useful for mechanistic analysis of other macromolecular machines in environments approaching the complexity of living cells.
PMCID: PMC3086749  PMID: 21393538
19.  The Spliceosome-Activating Complex: Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Function of a Pleiotropic Regulator 
Correct interpretation of the coding capacity of RNA polymerase II transcribed eukaryotic genes is determined by the recognition and removal of intronic sequences of pre-mRNAs by the spliceosome. Our current knowledge on dynamic assembly and subunit interactions of the spliceosome mostly derived from the characterization of yeast, Drosophila, and human spliceosomal complexes formed on model pre-mRNA templates in cell extracts. In addition to sequential structural rearrangements catalyzed by ATP-dependent DExH/D-box RNA helicases, catalytic activation of the spliceosome is critically dependent on its association with the NineTeen Complex (NTC) named after its core E3 ubiquitin ligase subunit PRP19. NTC, isolated recently from Arabidopsis, occurs in a complex with the essential RNA helicase and GTPase subunits of the U5 small nuclear RNA particle that are required for both transesterification reactions of splicing. A compilation of mass spectrometry data available on the composition of NTC and spliceosome complexes purified from different organisms indicates that about half of their conserved homologs are encoded by duplicated genes in Arabidopsis. Thus, while mutations of single genes encoding essential spliceosome and NTC components lead to cell death in other organisms, differential regulation of some of their functionally redundant Arabidopsis homologs permits the isolation of partial loss of function mutations. Non-lethal pleiotropic defects of these mutations provide a unique means for studying the roles of NTC in co-transcriptional assembly of the spliceosome and its crosstalk with DNA repair and cell death signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3355604  PMID: 22639636
spliceosome; NineTeen complex; co-transcriptional splicing; DNA repair; cell death signaling; Arabidopsis
20.  A Unique Spatial Arrangement of the snRNPs within the Native Spliceosome Emerges from In-Silico Studies 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2012;20(6):1097-1106.
The spliceosome is a mega-Dalton ribonucleoprotein (RNP) assembly that processes primary RNA transcripts, producing functional mRNA. The electron microscopy structures of the native spliceosome and of several spliceosomal subcomplexes are available but the spatial arrangement of the latter within the native spliceosome is not known. We designed a new computational procedure to efficiently fit thousands of conformers into the spliceosome envelope. Despite the low resolution limitations, we obtained only one model that complies with the available biochemical data. Our model localizes the five small nuclear RNPs (snRNPs) mostly within the large subunit of the native spliceosome, requiring only minor conformation changes. The remaining free volume presumably accommodates additional spliceosomal components. The constituents of the active core of the spliceosome are juxtaposed, forming a continuous surface deep within the large spliceosomal cavity, which provides a sheltered environment for the splicing reaction.
PMCID: PMC3372696  PMID: 22578543
21.  The N-terminus of Prp1 (Prp6/U5-102 K) is essential for spliceosome activation in vivo 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(5):1610-1622.
The spliceosomal protein Prp1 (Prp6/U5-102 K) is necessary for the integrity of pre-catalytic spliceosomal complexes. We have identified a novel regulatory function for Prp1. Expression of mutations in the N-terminus of Prp1 leads to the accumulation of pre-catalytic spliceosomal complexes containing the five snRNAs U1, U2, U5 and U4/U6 and pre-mRNAs. The mutations in the N-terminus, which prevent splicing to occur, include in vitro and in vivo identified phosphorylation sites of Prp4 kinase. These sites are highly conserved in the human ortholog U5-102 K. The results presented here demonstrate that structural integrity of the N-terminus is required to mediate a splicing event, but is not necessary for the assembly of spliceosomes.
PMCID: PMC2836577  PMID: 20007600
The splicing of pre-mRNAs is an essential step of gene expression in eukaryotes. Introns are removed from split genes through the activities of the spliceosome, a large ribonuclear machine that is conserved throughout the eukaryotic lineage. While unicellular eukaryotes are characterized by less complex splicing, pre-mRNA splicing of multicellular organisms is often associated with extensive alternative splicing that significantly enriches their proteome. The alternative selection of splice sites and exons permits multicellular organisms to modulate gene expression patterns in a cell type specific fashion, thus contributing to their functional diversification. Alternative splicing is a regulated process that is mainly influenced by the activities of splicing regulators, such as SR proteins or hnRNPs. These modular factors have evolved from a common ancestor through gene duplication events to a diverse group of splicing regulators that mediate exon recognition through their sequence specific binding to pre-mRNAs. Given the strong correlations between intron expansion, the complexity of pre-mRNA splicing, and the emergence of splicing regulators, it is argued that the increased presence of SR and hnRNP proteins promoted the evolution of alternative splicing through relaxation of the sequence requirements of splice junctions.
PMCID: PMC3235224  PMID: 21898828
Pre-mRNA splicing; Spliceosome; alternative splicing; splicing regulation; SR protein; hnRNP protein; evolution; intron expansion; gene duplication; multicellular eukaryote; unicellular eukaryote; exon recognition; splice site
23.  Computational Identification of Four Spliceosomal snRNAs from the Deep-Branching Eukaryote Giardia intestinalis 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(8):e3106.
RNAs processing other RNAs is very general in eukaryotes, but is not clear to what extent it is ancestral to eukaryotes. Here we focus on pre-mRNA splicing, one of the most important RNA-processing mechanisms in eukaryotes. In most eukaryotes splicing is predominantly catalysed by the major spliceosome complex, which consists of five uridine-rich small nuclear RNAs (U-snRNAs) and over 200 proteins in humans. Three major spliceosomal introns have been found experimentally in Giardia; one Giardia U-snRNA (U5) and a number of spliceosomal proteins have also been identified. However, because of the low sequence similarity between the Giardia ncRNAs and those of other eukaryotes, the other U-snRNAs of Giardia had not been found. Using two computational methods, candidates for Giardia U1, U2, U4 and U6 snRNAs were identified in this study and shown by RT-PCR to be expressed. We found that identifying a U2 candidate helped identify U6 and U4 based on interactions between them. Secondary structural modelling of the Giardia U-snRNA candidates revealed typical features of eukaryotic U-snRNAs. We demonstrate a successful approach to combine computational and experimental methods to identify expected ncRNAs in a highly divergent protist genome. Our findings reinforce the conclusion that spliceosomal small-nuclear RNAs existed in the last common ancestor of eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC2518118  PMID: 18769729
24.  XE7: A novel splicing factor that interacts with ASF/SF2 and ZNF265 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(17):4976-4986.
Pre-mRNA splicing is performed by the spliceosome. SR proteins in this macromolecular complex are essential for both constitutive and alternative splicing. By using the SR-related protein ZNF265 as bait in a yeast two-hybrid screen, we pulled out the uncharacterized human protein XE7, which is encoded by a pseudoautosomal gene. XE7 had been identified in a large-scale proteomic analysis of the human spliceosome. It consists of two different isoforms produced by alternative splicing. The arginine/serine (RS)-rich region in the larger of these suggests a role in mRNA processing. Herein we show for the first time that XE7 is an alternative splicing regulator. XE7 interacts with ZNF265, as well as with the essential SR protein ASF/SF2. The RS-rich region of XE7 dictates both interactions. We show that XE7 localizes in the nucleus of human cells, where it colocalizes with both ZNF265 and ASF/SF2, as well as with other SR proteins, in speckles. We also demonstrate that XE7 influences alternative splice site selection of pre-mRNAs from CD44, Tra2-β1 and SRp20 minigenes. We have thus shown that the spliceosomal component XE7 resembles an SR-related splicing protein, and can influence alternative splicing.
PMCID: PMC1635291  PMID: 16982639
25.  The SPF27 Homologue Num1 Connects Splicing and Kinesin 1-Dependent Cytoplasmic Trafficking in Ustilago maydis 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(1):e1004046.
The conserved NineTeen protein complex (NTC) is an integral subunit of the spliceosome and required for intron removal during pre-mRNA splicing. The complex associates with the spliceosome and participates in the regulation of conformational changes of core spliceosomal components, stabilizing RNA-RNA- as well as RNA-protein interactions. In addition, the NTC is involved in cell cycle checkpoint control, response to DNA damage, as well as formation and export of mRNP-particles. We have identified the Num1 protein as the homologue of SPF27, one of NTC core components, in the basidiomycetous fungus Ustilago maydis. Num1 is required for polarized growth of the fungal hyphae, and, in line with the described NTC functions, the num1 mutation affects the cell cycle and cell division. The num1 deletion influences splicing in U. maydis on a global scale, as RNA-Seq analysis revealed increased intron retention rates. Surprisingly, we identified in a screen for Num1 interacting proteins not only NTC core components as Prp19 and Cef1, but several proteins with putative functions during vesicle-mediated transport processes. Among others, Num1 interacts with the motor protein Kin1 in the cytoplasm. Similar phenotypes with respect to filamentous and polar growth, vacuolar morphology, as well as the motility of early endosomes corroborate the genetic interaction between Num1 and Kin1. Our data implicate a previously unidentified connection between a component of the splicing machinery and cytoplasmic transport processes. As the num1 deletion also affects cytoplasmic mRNA transport, the protein may constitute a novel functional interconnection between the two disparate processes of splicing and trafficking.
Author Summary
In eukaryotic cells, nascent mRNA is processed by splicing to remove introns and to join the exon sequences. The processed mRNA is then transported out of the nucleus and employed by ribosomes to synthesize proteins. Splicing is achieved by the spliceosome and associated protein complexes, among them the so-called NineTeen complex (NTC). We have identified the Num1 protein as one of the core components of the NTC in the fungus Ustilago maydis, and could show that it is required for polarized growth of the filamentous fungal cells. Consistent with the NTC function, cells with a num1-deletion show reduced splicing of mRNA. Moreover, we uncover a novel cytoplasmic function of the Num1 protein: It physically interacts with the microtubule-associated Kinesin 1 motor protein, and phenotypic analyses corroborate that both proteins are functionally connected. Our findings reveal a yet unidentified role of a global splicing factor during intracellular trafficking processes. A possible connection between these disparate mechanisms presumably resides in mRNA-export out of the nucleus and/or the transport of mRNA within the cytoplasm.
PMCID: PMC3879195  PMID: 24391515

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