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1.  Tandem Stem Loops in roX RNAs Act Together to Mediate X Chromosome Dosage Compensation in Drosophila 
Molecular cell  2013;51(2):156-173.
Dosage compensation in Drosophila is an epigenetic phenomenon utilizing proteins and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) for transcriptional upregulation of the male X chromosome. Here, by using UV crosslinking followed by deep sequencing, we show that two enzymes in the Male-Specific Lethal complex, MLE RNA helicase and MSL2 ubiquitin ligase, bind evolutionarily conserved domains containing tandem stem loops in roX1 and roX2 RNAs in vivo. These domains constitute the minimal RNA unit present in multiple copies in diverse arrangements for nucleation of the MSL complex. MLE binds to these domains with distinct ATP-independent and ATP-dependent behavior. Importantly, we show that different roX RNA domains have overlapping function, since only combinatorial mutations in the tandem stem loops result in severe loss of dosage compensation and consequently male-specific lethality. We propose that repetitive structural motifs in lncRNAs could provide plasticity during multiprotein complex assemblies to ensure efficient targeting in cis or in trans along chromosomes.
PMCID: PMC3804161  PMID: 23870142
2.  Lineage-specific splicing of a brain-enriched alternative exon promotes glioblastoma progression 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(7):2861-2876.
Tissue-specific alternative splicing is critical for the emergence of tissue identity during development, yet the role of this process in malignant transformation is undefined. Tissue-specific splicing involves evolutionarily conserved, alternative exons that represent only a minority of the total alternative exons identified. Many of these conserved exons have functional features that influence signaling pathways to profound biological effect. Here, we determined that lineage-specific splicing of a brain-enriched cassette exon in the membrane-binding tumor suppressor annexin A7 (ANXA7) diminishes endosomal targeting of the EGFR oncoprotein, consequently enhancing EGFR signaling during brain tumor progression. ANXA7 exon splicing was mediated by the ribonucleoprotein PTBP1, which is normally repressed during neuronal development. PTBP1 was highly expressed in glioblastomas due to loss of a brain-enriched microRNA (miR-124) and to PTBP1 amplification. The alternative ANXA7 splicing trait was present in precursor cells, suggesting that glioblastoma cells inherit the trait from a potential tumor-initiating ancestor and that these cells exploit this trait through accumulation of mutations that enhance EGFR signaling. Our data illustrate that lineage-specific splicing of a tissue-regulated alternative exon in a constituent of an oncogenic pathway eliminates tumor suppressor functions and promotes glioblastoma progression. This paradigm may offer a general model as to how tissue-specific regulatory mechanisms can reprogram normal developmental processes into oncogenic ones.
PMCID: PMC4071411  PMID: 24865424
3.  GraphProt: modeling binding preferences of RNA-binding proteins 
Genome Biology  2014;15(1):R17.
We present GraphProt, a computational framework for learning sequence- and structure-binding preferences of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) from high-throughput experimental data. We benchmark GraphProt, demonstrating that the modeled binding preferences conform to the literature, and showcase the biological relevance and two applications of GraphProt models. First, estimated binding affinities correlate with experimental measurements. Second, predicted Ago2 targets display higher levels of expression upon Ago2 knockdown, whereas control targets do not. Computational binding models, such as those provided by GraphProt, are essential for predicting RBP binding sites and affinities in all tissues. GraphProt is freely available at
PMCID: PMC4053806  PMID: 24451197
4.  Characterization of CRISPR RNA processing in Clostridium thermocellum and Methanococcus maripaludis  
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(19):9887-9896.
The CRISPR arrays found in many bacteria and most archaea are transcribed into a long precursor RNA that is processed into small clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) RNAs (crRNAs). These RNA molecules can contain fragments of viral genomes and mediate, together with a set of CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins, the prokaryotic immunity against viral attacks. CRISPR/Cas systems are diverse and the Cas6 enzymes that process crRNAs vary between different subtypes. We analysed CRISPR/Cas subtype I-B and present the identification of novel Cas6 enzymes from the bacterial and archaeal model organisms Clostridium thermocellum and Methanococcus maripaludis C5. Methanococcus maripaludis Cas6b in vitro activity and specificity was determined. Two complementary catalytic histidine residues were identified. RNA-Seq analyses revealed in vivo crRNA processing sites, crRNA abundance and orientation of CRISPR transcription within these two organisms. Individual spacer sequences were identified with strong effects on transcription and processing patterns of a CRISPR cluster. These effects will need to be considered for the application of CRISPR clusters that are designed to produce synthetic crRNAs.
PMCID: PMC3479195  PMID: 22879377
5.  Global or local? Predicting secondary structure and accessibility in mRNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(12):5215-5226.
Determining the structural properties of mRNA is key to understanding vital post-transcriptional processes. As experimental data on mRNA structure are scarce, accurate structure prediction is required to characterize RNA regulatory mechanisms. Although various structure prediction approaches are available, it is often unclear which to choose and how to set their parameters. Furthermore, no standard measure to compare predictions of local structure exists. We assessed the performance of different methods using two types of data: transcriptome-wide enzymatic probing information and a large, curated set of cis-regulatory elements. To compare the approaches, we introduced structure accuracy, a measure that is applicable to both global and local methods. Our results showed that local folding was more accurate than the classic global approach. We investigated how the locality parameters, maximum base pair span and window size, influenced the prediction performance. A span of 150 provided a reasonable balance between maximizing the number of accurately predicted base pairs, while minimizing effects of incorrect long-range predictions. We characterized the error at artificial sequence ends, which we reduced by setting the window size sufficiently greater than the maximum span. Our method, LocalFold, diminished all border effects and produced the most robust performance.
PMCID: PMC3384308  PMID: 22373926
6.  Classifying proteinlike sequences in arbitrary lattice protein models using LatPack 
HFSP Journal  2008;2(6):396-404.
Knowledge of a protein’s three-dimensional native structure is vital in determining its chemical properties and functionality. However, experimental methods to determine structure are very costly and time-consuming. Computational approaches such as folding simulations and structure prediction algorithms are quicker and cheaper but lack consistent accuracy. This currently restricts extensive computational studies to abstract protein models. It is thus essential that simplifications induced by the models do not negate scientific value. Key to this is the use of thoroughly defined proteinlike sequences. In such cases abstract models can allow for the investigation of important biological questions. Here, we present a procedure to generate and classify proteinlike sequence data sets. Our LatPack tools and the approach in general are applicable to arbitrary lattice protein models. Identification is based on thermodynamic kinetic features and incorporates the sequential assembly of proteins by addressing cotranslational folding. We demonstrate the approach in the widely used unrestricted 3D-cubic HP-model. The resulting sequence set is the first large data set for this model exhibiting the proteinlike properties required. Our data tools are freely available and can be used to investigate protein-related problems.
PMCID: PMC2645588  PMID: 19436498

Results 1-6 (6)