The Cmr complex is the multi-subunit effector complex of the Type III-B CRISPR-Cas immune system. The Cmr complex recognizes a target RNA through base pairing with the integral CRISPR RNA (crRNA) and cleaves the target at multiple regularly spaced locations within the complementary region. To understand the molecular basis of the function of this complex, we have assembled information from electron microscopic and x-ray crystallographic structural studies and mutagenesis of a complete Pyrococcus furiosus Cmr complex. Our findings reveal that four helically-packed Cmr4 subunits, which comprise the backbone of the Cmr complex, act as a platform to support crRNA binding and target RNA cleavage. Interestingly, we found a hook-like structural feature associated with Cmr4 that is likely the site of target RNA binding and cleavage. Our results also elucidate analogies in the mechanisms of crRNA and target molecule binding by the distinct Cmr Type III-A and Cascade Type I-E complexes.
CRISPR-Cas systems are RNA-guided immune systems that protect prokaryotes against viruses and other invaders. The CRISPR locus encodes crRNAs that recognize invading nucleic acid sequences and trigger silencing by the associated Cas proteins. There are multiple CRISPR-Cas systems with distinct compositions and mechanistic processes. Thermococcus kodakarensis (Tko) is a hyperthermophilic euryarchaeon that has both a Type I-A Csa and a Type I-B Cst CRISPR-Cas system. We have analyzed the expression and composition of crRNAs from the three CRISPRs in Tko by RNA deep sequencing and northern analysis. Our results indicate that crRNAs associated with these two CRISPR-Cas systems include an 8-nucleotide conserved sequence tag at the 5′ end. We challenged Tko with plasmid invaders containing sequences targeted by endogenous crRNAs and observed active CRISPR-Cas-mediated silencing. Plasmid silencing was dependent on complementarity with a crRNA as well as on a sequence element found immediately adjacent to the crRNA recognition site in the target termed the PAM (protospacer adjacent motif). Silencing occurred independently of the orientation of the target sequence in the plasmid, and appears to occur at the DNA level, presumably via DNA degradation. In addition, we have directed silencing of an invader plasmid by genetically engineering the chromosomal CRISPR locus to express customized crRNAs directed against the plasmid. Our results support CRISPR engineering as a feasible approach to develop prokaryotic strains that are resistant to infection for use in industry.
CRISPR; Cas; archaea; Thermococcus; hyperthermophile; immune; RNA; DNA; silencing; interference
Using the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus, we have delineated several key steps in CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)–Cas (CRISPR-associated) invader defence pathways. P. furiosus has seven transcriptionally active CRISPR loci that together encode a total of 200 crRNAs (CRISPR RNAs). The 27 Cas proteins in this organism represent three distinct pathways and are primarily encoded in two large gene clusters. The Cas6 protein dices CRISPR locus transcripts to generate individual invader-targeting crRNAs. The mature crRNAs include a signature sequence element (the 5′ tag) derived from the CRISPR locus repeat sequence that is important for function. crRNAs are tailored into distinct species and integrated into three distinct crRNA–Cas protein complexes that are all candidate effector complexes. The complex formed by the Cmr [Cas module RAMP (repeat-associated mysterious proteins)] (subtype III-B) proteins cleaves complementary target RNAs and can be programmed to cleave novel target RNAs in a prokaryotic RNAi-like manner. Evidence suggests that the other two CRISPR–Cas systems in P. furiosus, Csa (Cas subtype Apern) (subtype I-A) and Cst (Cas subtype Tneap) (subtype I-B), target invaders at the DNA level. Studies of the CRISPR–Cas systems from P. furiosus are yielding fundamental knowledge of mechanisms of crRNA biogenesis and silencing for three of the diverse CRISPR–Cas pathways, and reveal that organisms such as P. furiosus possess an arsenal of multiple RNA-guided mechanisms to resist diverse invaders. Our knowledge of the fascinating CRISPR–Cas pathways is leading in turn to our ability to co-opt these systems for exciting new biomedical and biotechnological applications.
clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR); CRISPR-associated (Cas); non-coding RNA; prokaryotic immunity; Pyrococcus furiosus; virus
The Cmr complex is an RNA-guided effector complex that cleaves invader RNA in the prokaryotic immune response mediated by the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat)-Cas system. Here we report the crystal structure of a Cmr subcomplex containing Cmr2 (Cas10) and Cmr3 subunits at 2.8 Å resolution. The structure revealed a dual Ferredoxin fold and glycine-rich loops characteristic of previously known repeat-associated mysterious proteins (RAMPs) and two unique insertion elements in Cmr3 that mediate its interaction with Cmr2. Surprisingly, while mutation of both insertion elements significantly weakened Cmr3-Cmr2 interaction, they exhibit differential effects on Cmr-mediated RNA cleavage by the Cmr complex, suggesting stabilization of Cmr2-Cmr3 interactions by other subunits. Further mutational analysis of the two conserved (but non-Cmr2-binding) glycine-rich loops of Cmr3 identified a region that is likely involved in assembly or the RNA cleavage function of the Cmr complex.
Recruitment to telomeres is a pivotal step in the function and regulation of human telomerase; however, the molecular basis for recruitment is not known. Here, we have directly investigated the process of telomerase recruitment via fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP). We find that depletion of two components of the shelterin complex that is found at telomeres—TPP1 and the protein that tethers TPP1 to the complex, TIN2—results in a loss of telomerase recruitment. On the other hand, we find that the majority of the observed telomerase association with telomeres does not require POT1, the shelterin protein that links TPP1 to the single-stranded region of the telomere. Deletion of the oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide binding fold (OB-fold) of TPP1 disrupts telomerase recruitment. In addition, while loss of TPP1 results in the appearance of DNA damage factors at telomeres, the DNA damage response per se does not account for the telomerase recruitment defect observed in the absence of TPP1. Our findings indicate that TIN2-anchored TPP1 plays a major role in the recruitment of telomerase to telomeres in human cells and that recruitment does not depend on POT1 or interaction of the shelterin complex with the single-stranded region of the telomere.
Telomere maintenance by telomerase is critical for the unlimited division potential of most human cancer cells. The two essential components of human telomerase, telomerase RNA (hTR) and telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), are recruited from distinct subnuclear sites to telomeres during S phase. Throughout the remainder of the cell cycle hTR is found primarily in Cajal bodies. The localization of hTR to Cajal bodies and telomeres is specific to cancer cells where telomerase is active and is not observed in primary cells. Here we show that the trafficking of hTR to both telomeres and Cajal bodies depends on hTERT. RNA interference–mediated depletion of hTERT in cancer cells leads to loss of hTR from both Cajal bodies and telomeres without affecting hTR levels. In addition, expression of hTERT in telomerase-negative cells (including primary and ALT cancer cell lines) induces hTR to localize to both sites. Factors that did not stimulate hTR localization in our experiments include increased hTR RNA levels and Cajal body numbers, and expression of SV40 large T antigen and oncogenic Ras. Our findings suggest that the trafficking of telomerase to Cajal bodies and telomeres in cancer cells correlates with and depends on the assembly of the enzyme.
Box C/D small nucleolar and Cajal body ribonucleoprotein particles (sno/scaRNPs) direct site-specific 2’-O-methylation of ribosomal and spliceosomal RNAs and are critical for gene expression. Here we report crystal structures of an archaeal box C/D RNP containing three core proteins (fibrillarin, Nop56/58, and L7Ae) and a halfmer box C/D guide RNA paired with a substrate RNA. The structure reveals a guide-substrate RNA duplex orientation imposed by a composite protein surface and the conserved GAEK motif of Nop56/58. Molecular modelling supports a dual C/D RNP structure that closely mimics that recently visualized by electron microscopy. The substrate-bound dual RNP model predicts an asymmetric protein distribution between the RNP that binds and that methylates the substrate RNA. The predicted asymmetric nature of the holoenzyme is consistent with previous biochemical data on RNP assembly and provides a simple solution for accommodating base-pairing between the C/D guide RNA and large ribosomal and spliceosomal substrate RNAs.
Small RNAs target invaders for silencing in the CRISPR-Cas pathways that protect bacteria and archaea from viruses and plasmids. The CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) contain sequence elements acquired from invaders that guide CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins back to the complementary invading DNA or RNA. Here, we have analyzed essential features of the crRNAs associated with the Cas RAMP module (Cmr) effector complex, which cleaves targeted RNAs. We show that Cmr crRNAs contain an 8-nucleotide 5’ sequence tag (also found on crRNAs associated with other CRISPR-Cas pathways) that is critical for crRNA function and can be used to engineer crRNAs that direct cleavage of novel targets. We also present data that indicates that the Cmr complex cleaves an endogenous complementary RNA in Pyrococcus furiosus, providing direct in vivo evidence of RNA targeting by the CRISPR-Cas system. Our findings indicate that the CRISPR RNA-Cmr protein pathway may be exploited to cleave RNAs of interest.
Telomerase synthesizes telomeres at the ends of human chromosomes during S phase. The results presented here suggest that telomerase activity may be regulated by intranuclear trafficking of the key components of the enzyme in human cells. We examined the subcellular localization of endogenous human telomerase RNA (hTR) and telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) in HeLa cervical carcinoma cells. Throughout most of the cell cycle, we found that the two essential components of telomerase accumulate at intranuclear sites separate from telomeres. However, during S phase, both hTR and hTERT are specifically recruited to subsets of telomeres. The localization of telomerase to telomeres is dynamic, peaking at mid-S phase. We also found complex associations of both hTR and hTERT with nucleoli and Cajal bodies during S phase, implicating both structures in the biogenesis and trafficking of telomerase. Our results mark the first observation of human telomerase at telomeres and provide a mechanism for the cell cycle-dependent regulation of telomere synthesis in human cells.
CRISPR-Cas systems are recently discovered, RNA-based immune systems that control invasions of viruses and plasmids in archaea and bacteria. Prokaryotes with CRISPR-Cas immune systems capture short invader sequences within the CRISPR loci in their genomes, and small RNAs produced from the CRISPR loci (CRISPR (cr)RNAs) guide Cas proteins to recognize and degrade (or otherwise silence) the invading nucleic acids. There are multiple variations of the pathway found among prokaryotes, each mediated by largely distinct components and mechanisms that we are only beginning to delineate. Here we will review our current understanding of the remarkable CRISPR-Cas pathways with particular attention to studies relevant to systems found in the archaea.
Specific information about how telomerase acts in vivo is necessary for understanding telomere dynamics in human tumor cells. Our results imply that under homeostatic telomere length-maintenance conditions only one molecule of telomerase acts at each telomere during every cell division and processively adds ~60 nt to each end. In contrast, multiple molecules of telomerase act at each telomere when telomeres are elongating (non-equilibrium conditions). Telomerase extension is less processive during the first few weeks following the reversal of long-term treatment with the telomerase inhibitor GRN163L, a time when Cajal bodies fail to deliver telomerase RNA to telomeres. This result implies that processing of telomerase by Cajal bodies may affect its processivity. Overexpressed telomerase is also less processive than the endogenously expressed telomerase. These findings reveal two major distinct extension modes adopted by telomerase in vivo.
Telomerase; telomere; cancer; cajal body; hTR; hTERT
The CRISPRs (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) found in prokaryotic genomes confer small RNA-mediated protection against viruses and other invaders. CRISPR loci contain iterations of a short repeat sequence alternating with small segments of varying invader-derived sequences. Distinct families of CRISPR-associated Cas proteins function to cleave within the repeat sequence of CRISPR transcripts and produce the individual invader-targeting crRNAs. Here we report the crystal structure of Pyrococcus furiosus Cas6 bound with a repeat RNA at 3.2 Å resolution. In contrast to other Cas families of endonucleases, Cas6 clasps nucleotides 2–9 of the repeat RNA using its two ferredoxin-like domains, and the enzyme-anchored 5’ end tethers the distal cleavage site of the RNA between nucleotides 22 and 23 to the predicted enzyme active site on the opposite side of the ferrodoxin-like domains. Our findings suggest a wrap-around mechanism for CRISPR RNA recognition and cleavage by Cas6 and related processing endonucleases.
The intranuclear trafficking of human telomerase involves a dynamic interplay between multiple nuclear sites, most notably Cajal bodies and telomeres. Cajal bodies are proposed to serve as sites of telomerase maturation, storage, and assembly, as well as to function in the cell cycle-regulated delivery of telomerase to telomeres in human cells. Here, we find that telomerase RNA does not localize to Cajal bodies in mouse cells, and instead resides in separate nuclear foci throughout much of the cell cycle. However, as in humans, mouse telomerase RNA (mTR) localizes to subsets of telomeres specifically during S phase. The localization of mTR to telomeres in mouse cells does not require coilin-containing Cajal bodies, as mTR is found at telomeres at similar frequencies in cells from wild-type and coilin knockout mice. At the same time, we find that human TR localizes to Cajal bodies (as well as telomeres) in mouse cells, indicating that the distinct trafficking of mTR is attributable to an intrinsic property of the RNA (rather than a difference in the mouse cell environment such as the properties of mouse Cajal bodies). We also find that during S phase, mTR foci coalesce into short chains, with at least one of the conjoined mTR foci co-localizing with a telomere. These findings point to a novel, Cajal body-independent pathway for telomerase biogenesis and trafficking in mice.
telomerase; telomeres; Cajal bodies; RNA localization; mouse telomerase RNA
Compelling evidence indicates that the CRISPR-Cas system protects prokaryotes from viruses and other potential genome invaders. This adaptive prokaryotic immune system arises from the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) found in prokaryotic genomes, which harbor short invader-derived sequences, and the CRISPR-associated (Cas) protein-coding genes. Here we have identified a CRISPR-Cas effector complex that is comprised of small invader-targeting RNAs from the CRISPR loci (termed prokaryotic silencing (psi)RNAs) and the RAMP module (or Cmr) Cas proteins. The psiRNA-Cmr protein complexes cleave complementary target RNAs at a fixed distance from the 3' end of the integral psiRNAs. In Pyrococcus furiosus, psiRNAs occur in two size forms that share a common 5' sequence tag but have distinct 3' ends that direct cleavage of a given target RNA at two distinct sites. Our results indicate that prokaryotes possess a unique RNA silencing system that functions by homology-dependent cleavage of invader RNAs.
Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex that synthesizes telomere repeats in tissue progenitor cells and cancer cells. Active human telomerase consists of at least three principal subunits, including the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT), the telomerase RNA (TERC), and dyskerin. Here, we identify a holoenzyme subunit, TCAB1 (telomerase Cajal body protein1), uniquely enriched in Cajal bodies, nuclear sites of RNP processing important for telomerase function. TCAB1 associates with active telomerase enzyme, with established telomerase components, and with small Cajal body RNAs involved in modifying splicing RNAs. Depletion of TCAB1 using RNA interference prevents TERC from associating with Cajal bodies, disrupts telomerase-telomere association and abrogates telomere synthesis by telomerase. Thus, TCAB1 controls telomerase trafficking and is required for telomere synthesis in human cancer cells.
Small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) orchestrate the modification and cleavage of pre-rRNA and are essential for ribosome biogenesis. Recent data suggest that after nucleoplasmic synthesis, snoRNAs transiently localize to the Cajal body (in plant and animal cells) or the homologous nucleolar body (in budding yeast) for maturation and assembly into snoRNPs prior to accumulation in their primary functional site, the nucleolus. However, little is known about the trans-acting factors important for the intranuclear trafficking and nucleolar localization of snoRNAs. Here, we describe a large-scale genetic screen to identify proteins important for snoRNA transport in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We performed fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis to visualize U3 snoRNA localization in a collection of temperature-sensitive yeast mutants. We have identified Nop4, Prp21, Tao3, Sec14, and Htl1 as proteins important for the proper localization of U3 snoRNA. Mutations in genes encoding these proteins lead to specific defects in the targeting or retention of the snoRNA to either the nucleolar body or the nucleolus. Additional characterization of the mutants revealed impairment in specific steps of U3 snoRNA processing, demonstrating that snoRNA maturation and trafficking are linked processes.
H/ACA RNP complexes change uridines to pseudouridines in target non-coding RNAs in eukaryotes and archaea. H/ACA RNPs are comprised of a guide RNA and four essential proteins: Cbf5 (pseudouridine synthase), L7Ae, Gar1 and Nop10 in archaea. The guide RNA captures the target RNA via two antisense elements brought together to form a contiguous binding site within the pseudouridylation pocket (internal loop) of the guide RNA. Cbf5 and L7Ae interact independently with the guide RNA, and here we have examined the impacts of these proteins on the RNA in nucleotide protection assays. The results indicate that the interactions observed in a fully assembled H/ACA RNP are established in the sub-complexes, but also reveal a unique Cbf5–guide RNA interaction that is displaced by L7Ae. In addition, the results indicate that L7Ae binding at the kink (k)-turn of the guide RNA induces the formation of the upper stem, and thus also the pseudouridylation pocket. Our findings indicate that L7Ae is essential for formation of the substrate RNA binding site in the archaeal H/ACA RNP, and suggest that k-turn-binding proteins may remodel partner RNAs with important effects distant from the protein-binding site.
Pseudouridine (Ψ) located at position 55 in tRNA is a nearly universally conserved RNA modification found in all three domains of life. This modification is catalyzed by TruB in bacteria and by Pus4 in eukaryotes, but so far the Ψ55 synthase has not been identified in archaea. In this work, we report the ability of two distinct pseudouridine synthases from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus to specifically modify U55 in tRNA in vitro. These enzymes are pfuCbf5, a protein known to play a role in RNA-guided modification of rRNA, and pfuPsuX, a previously uncharacterized enzyme that is not a member of the TruB/Pus4/Cbf5 family of pseudouridine synthases. pfuPsuX is hereafter renamed pfuPus10. Both enzymes specifically modify tRNA U55 in vitro but exhibit differences in substrate recognition. In addition, we find that in a heterologous in vivo system, pfuPus10 efficiently complements an Escherichia coli strain deficient in the bacterial Ψ55 synthase TruB. These results indicate that it is probable that pfuCbf5 or pfuPus10 (or both) is responsible for the introduction of pseudouridine at U55 in tRNAs in archaea. While we cannot unequivocally assign the function from our results, both possibilities represent unexpected functions of these proteins as discussed herein.
U3 small nucleolar RNA (snoRNA) and associated proteins are required for the processing of preribosomal RNA (pre-rRNA) and assembly of preribosomes. There are two major U3 snoRNA-containing complexes. The monoparticle contains U3 snoRNA and the core Box C/D snoRNA-associated proteins and an early preribosome-associated complex contains the monoparticle and additional factors that we refer to as preribosome-associated proteins. To address how and where the U3 snoRNA-containing preribosome assembles and how these processes are temporally and spatially regulated, we have examined the dynamics and distribution of human U3 complex-associated components in cells with active or inactive transcription of rDNA. We found that U3 complex-associated proteins shuttle between the nucleus and the cytoplasm independent of the synthesis and export of preribosomal particles, suggesting that the shuttling of these proteins may either provide opportunities for their regulation, or contribute to or modulate ribosome export. In addition, monoparticle and preribosome associated components predominantly localize to different nucleolar substructures, fibrillar components, and granular components, respectively, in active nucleoli, and partition separately into the two components during nucleolar segregation induced by inhibition of pol I transcription. Although the predominant localizations of these two sets of factors differ, there are significant areas of overlap that may represent the sites where they reside as a single complex. These results are consistent with a model in which U3 monoparticles associate with the fibrillar components of nucleoli and bind pre-rRNA during transcription, triggering recruitment of preribosome-associated proteins to assemble the complex necessary for pre-rRNA processing.
Telomerase synthesizes telomeric DNA repeats at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. The RNA component of the enzyme (hTR) provides the template for telomere synthesis, which is catalyzed by telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT). Little is known regarding the subcellular localization of hTR and hTERT and the pathway by which telomerase is assembled. Here we report the first glimpse of the detailed subcellular localization of endogenous hTR in human cells, which we obtained by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Our studies have revealed a distinctive hTR localization pattern in cancer cells. We have found that hTR accumulates within intranuclear foci called Cajal bodies in all typical tumor-derived cell lines examined (in which telomerase is active), but not in primary or ALT cells (where little or no hTERT is present). Accumulation of hTR in the Cajal bodies of primary cells is induced when hTERT is ectopically expressed. Moreover, we report that hTERT is also found in Cajal bodies. Our data suggest that Cajal bodies are involved in the assembly and/or function of human telomerase.
U2 small nuclear (sn)RNA contains a large number of posttranscriptionally modified nucleotides, including a 5′ trimethylated guanosine cap, 13 pseudouridines, and 10 2′-O-methylated residues. Using Xenopus oocytes, we demonstrated previously that at least some of these modified nucleotides are essential for biogenesis of a functional snRNP. Here we address the subcellular site of U2 internal modification. Upon injection into the cytoplasm of oocytes, G-capped U2 that is transported to the nucleus becomes modified, whereas A-capped U2 that remains in the cytoplasm is not modified. Furthermore, by injecting U2 RNA into isolated nuclei or enucleated oocytes, we observe that U2 internal modifications occur exclusively in the nucleus. Analysis of the intranuclear localization of fluorescently labeled RNAs shows that injected wild-type U2 becomes localized to nucleoli and Cajal bodies. Both internal modification and nucleolar localization of U2 are dependent on the Sm binding site. An Sm-mutant U2 is targeted only to Cajal bodies. The Sm binding site can be replaced by a nucleolar localization signal derived from small nucleolar RNAs (the box C/D motif), resulting in rescue of internal modification as well as nucleolar localization. Analysis of additional chimeric U2 RNAs reveals a correlation between internal modification and nucleolar localization. Together, our results suggest that U2 internal modification occurs within the nucleolus.
snRNP; Sm binding site; modified nucleotide; snoRNA; localization
The 5′-cap structure of most spliceosomal small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs) and certain small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) undergoes hypermethylation from a 7-methylguanosine to a 2,2,7-trimethylguanosine structure. 5′-Cap hypermethylation of snRNAs is dependent upon a conserved sequence element known as the Sm site common to most snRNAs. Here we have performed a mutational analysis of U3 and U14 to determine the cis-acting sequences required for 5′-cap hypermethylation of Box C/D snoRNAs. We have found that both the conserved sequence elements Box C (termed C′ in U3) and Box D are necessary for cap hypermethylation. Furthermore, the terminal stem structure that is formed by sequences that flank Box C (C′ in U3) and Box D is also required. However, mutation of other conserved sequences has no effect on hypermethylation of the cap. Finally, the analysis of fragments of U3 and U14 RNAs indicates that the Box C/D motif, including Box C (C′ in U3), Box D and the terminal stem, is capable of directing cap hypermethylation. Thus, the Box C/D motif, which is important for snoRNA processing, stability, nuclear retention, protein binding, nucleolar localization and function, is also necessary and sufficient for cap hypermethylation of these RNAs.
U3 small nucleolar RNA (snoRNA) is a member of the Box C/D family of snoRNAs which functions in ribosomal RNA processing. U3-55k is a protein that has been found to interact with U3 but not other members of the Box C/D snoRNA family. We have found that interaction of the U3-55k protein with U3 RNA in vivo is mediated by the conserved Box B/C motif which is unique to U3 snoRNA. Mutation of Box B and Box C, but not of other conserved sequence elements, disrupted interaction of U3-55k with U3 RNA. Furthermore, a fragment of U3 containing only these two conserved elements was bound by U3-55k in vivo. RNA binding assays performed in vitro indicate that Box C may be the primary determinant of the interaction. We have cloned the cDNA encoding the Xenopus laevis U3-55k protein and find strong homology to the human sequence, including six WD repeats. Deletion of WD repeats or sequences near the C-terminus of U3-55k resulted in loss of association with U3 RNA and also loss of localization of U3-55k to the nucleolus, suggesting that protein–protein interactions contribute to the localization and RNA binding of U3-55k in vivo.
The processing and methylation of precursor rRNA is mediated by the box C/D small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs). These snoRNAs differ from most cellular RNAs in that they are not exported to the cytoplasm. Instead, these RNAs are actively retained in the nucleus where they assemble with proteins into mature small nucleolar ribonucleoprotein particles and are targeted to their intranuclear site of action, the nucleolus. In this study, we have identified the cis-acting sequences responsible for the nuclear retention of U3 box C/D snoRNA by analyzing the nucleocytoplasmic distributions of an extensive panel of U3 RNA variants after injection of the RNAs into Xenopus oocyte nuclei. Our data indicate the importance of two conserved sequence motifs in retaining U3 RNA in the nucleus. The first motif is comprised of the conserved box C′ and box D sequences that characterize the box C/D family. The second motif contains conserved box sequences B and C. Either motif is sufficient for nuclear retention, but disruption of both motifs leads to mislocalization of the RNAs to the cytoplasm. Variant RNAs that are not retained also lack 5′ cap hypermethylation and fail to associate with fibrillarin. Furthermore, our results indicate that nuclear retention of U3 RNA does not simply reflect its nucleolar localization. A fragment of U3 containing the box B/C motif is not localized to nucleoli but retained in coiled bodies. Thus, nuclear retention and nucleolar localization are distinct processes with differing sequence requirements.
Small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) are a large family of eukaryotic RNAs that function within the nucleolus in the biogenesis of ribosomes. One major class of snoRNAs is the box C/D snoRNAs named for their conserved box C and box D sequence elements. We have investigated the involvement of cis-acting sequences and intranuclear structures in the localization of box C/D snoRNAs to the nucleolus by assaying the intranuclear distribution of fluorescently labeled U3, U8, and U14 snoRNAs injected into Xenopus oocyte nuclei. Analysis of an extensive panel of U3 RNA variants showed that the box C/D motif, comprised of box C′, box D, and the 3′ terminal stem of U3, is necessary and sufficient for the nucleolar localization of U3 snoRNA. Disruption of the elements of the box C/D motif of U8 and U14 snoRNAs also prevented nucleolar localization, indicating that all box C/D snoRNAs use a common nucleolar-targeting mechanism. Finally, we found that wild-type box C/D snoRNAs transiently associate with coiled bodies before they localize to nucleoli and that variant RNAs that lack an intact box C/D motif are detained within coiled bodies. These results suggest that coiled bodies play a role in the biogenesis and/or intranuclear transport of box C/D snoRNAs.