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1.  Interrogating the function of metazoan histones using engineered gene clusters 
Developmental cell  2015;32(3):373-386.
Histones and their post-translational modifications influence the regulation of many DNA-dependent processes. Although an essential role for histone-modifying enzymes in these processes is well established, defining the specific contribution of individual histone residues remains a challenge because many histone-modifying enzymes have non-histone targets. This challenge is exacerbated by the paucity of suitable approaches to genetically engineer histone genes in metazoans. Here, we describe a facile platform in Drosophila for generating and analyzing any desired histone genotype, and we use it to test the in vivo function of three histone residues. We demonstrate that H4K20 is neither essential for DNA replication nor for completion of development, unlike conclusions drawn from analyses of H4K20 methyltransferases. We also show that H3K36 is required for viability and H3K27 is essential for maintenance of cellular identity during development. These findings highlight the power of engineering histones to interrogate genome structure and function in animals.
PMCID: PMC4385256  PMID: 25669886
2.  SMA-Causing Missense Mutations in Survival motor neuron (Smn) Display a Wide Range of Phenotypes When Modeled in Drosophila 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(8):e1004489.
Mutations in the human survival motor neuron 1 (SMN) gene are the primary cause of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a devastating neuromuscular disorder. SMN protein has a well-characterized role in the biogenesis of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs), core components of the spliceosome. Additional tissue-specific and global functions have been ascribed to SMN; however, their relevance to SMA pathology is poorly understood and controversial. Using Drosophila as a model system, we created an allelic series of twelve Smn missense mutations, originally identified in human SMA patients. We show that animals expressing these SMA-causing mutations display a broad range of phenotypic severities, similar to the human disease. Furthermore, specific interactions with other proteins known to be important for SMN's role in RNP assembly are conserved. Intragenic complementation analyses revealed that the three most severe mutations, all of which map to the YG box self-oligomerization domain of SMN, display a stronger phenotype than the null allele and behave in a dominant fashion. In support of this finding, the severe YG box mutants are defective in self-interaction assays, yet maintain their ability to heterodimerize with wild-type SMN. When expressed at high levels, wild-type SMN is able to suppress the activity of the mutant protein. These results suggest that certain SMN mutants can sequester the wild-type protein into inactive complexes. Molecular modeling of the SMN YG box dimer provides a structural basis for this dominant phenotype. These data demonstrate that important structural and functional features of the SMN YG box are conserved between vertebrates and invertebrates, emphasizing the importance of self-interaction to the proper functioning of SMN.
Author Summary
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a prevalent childhood neuromuscular disease, which in its most common form causes death by the age of two. One in fifty Americans is a carrier for SMA, making this genetic disease a serious health concern. SMA is caused by loss of function mutations in the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. SMN is an essential protein and has a well-characterized function in the assembly of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs), which are core components of the spliceosome. To elucidate the phenotypic consequences of disrupting specific SMN protein interactions, we have generated a series of SMA-causing point mutations, modeled in Drosophila melanogaster. Using this system, we have shown that key aspects of SMN structure and function are conserved between humans and flies. Intragenic complementation analyses reveal the potential for dominant negative interactions between wild-type and mutant SMN subunits, highlighting the essential nature of the YG box in formation of higher-order SMN multimers. These results provide a basis for future studies investigating therapy targeted at restoration of functional SMN oligomers.
PMCID: PMC4140637  PMID: 25144193
3.  Genetic Analysis of Nuclear Bodies: From Nondeterministic Chaos to Deterministic Order 
The eukaryotic nucleus is a congested place, and macromolecular crowding is thought to play an important role in increasing the relative concentrations of nuclear proteins, thereby accelerating the rates of biochemical reactions. Crowding is also thought to provide the environment needed for formation of nuclear bodies/subcompartments, such as the Cajal Body (CB) and the Histone Locus Body (HLB), via self-organization. In this chapter, we contrast the theories of stochastic self-organization and hierarchical self-organization in their application to nuclear body assembly, using CBs and HLBs as paradigms. Genetic ablation studies in Drosophila on components of CBs and HLBs, have revealed an order to the assembly of these structures that is suggestive of a hierarchical model of self-organization. These studies also show that function(s) attributed to the nuclear bodies are largely unaffected in their absence, reinforcing an emerging theme in the field that the purpose of these subdomains may be to enhance the efficiency and specificity of reactions.
PMCID: PMC4062921  PMID: 21467138
4.  Vicinal: a method for the determination of ncRNA ends using chimeric reads from RNA-seq experiments 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(9):e79.
Non-coding (nc)RNAs are important structural and regulatory molecules. Accurate determination of the primary sequence and secondary structure of ncRNAs is important for understanding their functions. During cDNA synthesis, RNA 3′ end stem-loops can self-prime reverse transcription, creating RNA–cDNA chimeras. We found that chimeric RNA–cDNA fragments can also be detected at 5′ end stem-loops, although at much lower frequency. Using the Gubler–Hoffman method, both types of chimeric fragments can be converted to cDNA during library construction, and they are readily detectable in high-throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) experiments. Here, we show that these chimeric reads contain valuable information about the boundaries of ncRNAs. We developed a bioinformatic method, called Vicinal, to precisely map the ends of numerous fruitfly, mouse and human ncRNAs. Using this method, we analyzed chimeric reads from over 100 RNA-seq datasets, the results of which we make available for users to find RNAs of interest. In summary, we show that Vicinal is a useful tool for determination of the precise boundaries of uncharacterized ncRNAs, facilitating further structure/function studies.
PMCID: PMC4027162  PMID: 24623808
5.  RIP-seq analysis of eukaryotic Sm proteins identifies three major categories of Sm-containing ribonucleoproteins 
Genome Biology  2014;15(1):R7.
Sm proteins are multimeric RNA-binding factors, found in all three domains of life. Eukaryotic Sm proteins, together with their associated RNAs, form small ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes important in multiple aspects of gene regulation. Comprehensive knowledge of the RNA components of Sm RNPs is critical for understanding their functions.
We developed a multi-targeting RNA-immunoprecipitation sequencing (RIP-seq) strategy to reliably identify Sm-associated RNAs from Drosophila ovaries and cultured human cells. Using this method, we discovered three major categories of Sm-associated transcripts: small nuclear (sn)RNAs, small Cajal body (sca)RNAs and mRNAs. Additional RIP-PCR analysis showed both ubiquitous and tissue-specific interactions. We provide evidence that the mRNA-Sm interactions are mediated by snRNPs, and that one of the mechanisms of interaction is via base pairing. Moreover, the Sm-associated mRNAs are mature, indicating a splicing-independent function for Sm RNPs.
This study represents the first comprehensive analysis of eukaryotic Sm-containing RNPs, and provides a basis for additional functional analyses of Sm proteins and their associated snRNPs outside of the context of pre-mRNA splicing. Our findings expand the repertoire of eukaryotic Sm-containing RNPs and suggest new functions for snRNPs in mRNA metabolism.
PMCID: PMC4053861  PMID: 24393626
6.  Identification and characterization of Drosophila Snurportin reveals a role for the import receptor Moleskin/importin-7 in snRNP biogenesis 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(18):2932-2942.
Previous work established Importin-β and Snurportin1 as the vertebrate snRNP import receptor and adaptor proteins, respectively. This study identifies Drosophila Snurportin and shows that it uses an alternative import receptor, Importin7/Moleskin. Moleskin is required for the stability of other snRNP biogenesis factors.
Nuclear import is an essential step in small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) biogenesis. Snurportin1 (SPN1), the import adaptor, binds to trimethylguanosine (TMG) caps on spliceosomal small nuclear RNAs. Previous studies indicated that vertebrate snRNP import requires importin-β, the transport receptor that binds directly to SPN1. We identify CG42303/snup as the Drosophila orthologue of human snurportin1 (SNUPN). Of interest, the importin-β binding (IBB) domain of SPN1, which is essential for TMG cap–mediated snRNP import in humans, is not well conserved in flies. Consistent with its lack of an IBB domain, we find that Drosophila SNUP (dSNUP) does not interact with Ketel/importin-β. Fruit fly snRNPs also fail to bind Ketel; however, the importin-7 orthologue Moleskin (Msk) physically associates with both dSNUP and spliceosomal snRNPs and localizes to nuclear Cajal bodies. Strikingly, we find that msk-null mutants are depleted of the snRNP assembly factor, survival motor neuron, and the Cajal body marker, coilin. Consistent with a loss of snRNP import function, long-lived msk larvae show an accumulation of TMG cap signal in the cytoplasm. These data indicate that Ketel/importin-β does not play a significant role in Drosophila snRNP import and demonstrate a crucial function for Msk in snRNP biogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3771954  PMID: 23885126
7.  Nuclear Bodies: Random Aggregates of Sticky Proteins or Crucibles of Macromolecular Assembly? 
Developmental cell  2009;17(5):639-647.
The principles of self-assembly and self-organization are major tenets of molecular and cellular biology. Governed by these principles, the eukaryotic nucleus is composed of numerous subdomains and compartments, collectively described as nuclear bodies. Emerging evidence reveals that associations within and between various nuclear bodies and genomic loci are dynamic and can change in response to cellular signals. This review will discuss recent progress in our understanding of how nuclear body components come together, what happens when they form, and what benefit these subcellular structures may provide to the tissues or organisms in which they are found.
PMCID: PMC3101021  PMID: 19922869
8.  Molecular Determinants of Survival Motor Neuron (SMN) Protein Cleavage by the Calcium-Activated Protease, Calpain 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15769.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a leading genetic cause of childhood mortality, caused by reduced levels of survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. SMN functions as part of a large complex in the biogenesis of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). It is not clear if defects in snRNP biogenesis cause SMA or if loss of some tissue-specific function causes disease. We recently demonstrated that the SMN complex localizes to the Z-discs of skeletal and cardiac muscle sarcomeres, and that SMN is a proteolytic target of calpain. Calpains are implicated in muscle and neurodegenerative disorders, although their relationship to SMA is unclear. Using mass spectrometry, we identified two adjacent calpain cleavage sites in SMN, S192 and F193. Deletion of small motifs in the region surrounding these sites inhibited cleavage. Patient-derived SMA mutations within SMN reduced calpain cleavage. SMN(D44V), reported to impair Gemin2 binding and amino-terminal SMN association, drastically inhibited cleavage, suggesting a role for these interactions in regulating calpain cleavage. Deletion of A188, a residue mutated in SMA type I (A188S), abrogated calpain cleavage, highlighting the importance of this region. Conversely, SMA mutations that interfere with self-oligomerization of SMN, Y272C and SMNΔ7, had no effect on cleavage. Removal of the recently-identified SMN degron (Δ268-294) resulted in increased calpain sensitivity, suggesting that the C-terminus of SMN is important in dictating availability of the cleavage site. Investigation into the spatial determinants of SMN cleavage revealed that endogenous calpains can cleave cytosolic, but not nuclear, SMN. Collectively, the results provide insight into a novel aspect of the post-translation regulation of SMN.
PMCID: PMC3012718  PMID: 21209906
9.  SMN complex localizes to the sarcomeric Z-disc and is a proteolytic target of calpain 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(21):3399-3410.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a recessive neuromuscular disease caused by mutations in the human survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. The human SMN protein is part of a large macromolecular complex involved in the biogenesis of small ribonucleoproteins. Previously, we showed that SMN is a sarcomeric protein in flies and mice. In this report, we show that the entire mouse Smn complex localizes to the sarcomeric Z-disc. Smn colocalizes with α-actinin, a Z-disc marker protein, in both skeletal and cardiac myofibrils. Furthermore, this localization is both calcium- and calpain-dependent. Calpains are known to release proteins from various regions of the sarcomere as a part of the normal functioning of the muscle; however, this removal can be either direct or indirect. Using mammalian cell lysates, purified native SMN complexes, as well as recombinant SMN protein, we show that SMN is a direct target of calpain cleavage. Finally, myofibers from a mouse model of severe SMA, but not controls, display morphological defects that are consistent with a Z-disc deficiency. These results support the view that the SMN complex performs a muscle-specific function at the Z-discs.
PMCID: PMC2566527  PMID: 18689355
10.  Reduced Viability, Fertility and Fecundity in Mice Lacking the Cajal Body Marker Protein, Coilin 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6171.
Coilin is the signature protein of the Cajal body, a conserved nuclear organelle involved in multiple aspects of small ribonucleoprotein (RNP) biogenesis. Coilin is required for Cajal body homeostasis in both plants and animals. Mice lacking coilin are viable when the mutation is crossed to an outbred strain but only partially viable when crossed to inbred lines.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In order to clarify this issue, we backcrossed the coilin deletion onto the C57BL6/J background for ten generations and then investigated the consequences of coilin removal on overall viability and reproductive success. We conclude that semi-lethal phenotype observed in mixed-background crosses is due to loss of the Coilin gene (or a very tightly-linked locus). Interestingly, coilin knockout embryos die relatively late in gestation, between E13.5 and birth. We show that the maternal contribution of coilin is not important for organismal viability. Importantly, coilin knockout mice display significant fertility and fecundity defects. Mutant males that escape the embryonic lethality display reduced testis size, however, both males and females contribute to the observed reduction in reproductive fitness.
The evolutionary conservation of coilin from plants to animals suggests that the protein plays an important role, perhaps coordinating the activities of various RNA-processing machineries. Our observations are consistent with the idea that coilin functions to ensure robust organismal development, especially during periods of rapid growth.
PMCID: PMC2702818  PMID: 19587784
11.  Coilin Is Essential for Cajal Body Organization in Drosophila melanogaster 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(6):1661-1670.
Cajal bodies (CBs) are nuclear organelles that occur in a variety of organisms, including vertebrates, insects, and plants. They are most often identified with antibodies against the marker protein coilin. Because the amino acid sequence of coilin is not strongly conserved evolutionarily, coilin orthologues have been difficult to recognize by homology search. Here, we report the identification of Drosophila melanogaster coilin and describe its distribution in tissues of the fly. Surprisingly, we found coilin not only in CBs but also in histone locus bodies (HLBs), calling into question the use of coilin as an exclusive marker for CBs. We analyzed two null mutants in the coilin gene and a piggyBac insertion mutant, which leads to specific loss of coilin from the germline. All three mutants are homozygous viable and fertile. Cells that lack coilin also lack distinct foci of other CB markers, including fibrillarin, the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein, U2 small nuclear RNA (snRNA), U5 snRNA, and the small CB-specific (sca) RNA U85. However, HLBs are not obviously affected in coilin-null flies. Thus, coilin is required for normal CB organization in Drosophila but is not essential for viability or production of functional gametes.
PMCID: PMC2655260  PMID: 19158395
12.  Gemin3 Is an Essential Gene Required for Larval Motor Function and Pupation in Drosophila 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(1):90-101.
The assembly of metazoan Sm-class small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) is an elaborate, step-wise process that takes place in multiple subcellular compartments. The initial steps, including formation of the core RNP, are mediated by the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein complex. Loss-of-function mutations in human SMN1 result in a neuromuscular disease called spinal muscular atrophy. The SMN complex is comprised of SMN and a number of tightly associated proteins, collectively called Gemins. In this report, we identify and characterize the fruitfly ortholog of the DEAD box protein, Gemin3. Drosophila Gemin3 (dGem3) colocalizes and interacts with dSMN in vitro and in vivo. RNA interference for dGem3 codepletes dSMN and inhibits efficient Sm core assembly in vitro. Transposon insertion mutations in Gemin3 are larval lethals and also codeplete dSMN. Transgenic overexpression of dGem3 rescues lethality, but overexpression of dSMN does not, indicating that loss of dSMN is not the primary cause of death. Gemin3 mutant larvae exhibit motor defects similar to previously characterized Smn alleles. Remarkably, appreciable numbers of Gemin3 mutants (along with one previously undescribed Smn allele) survive as larvae for several weeks without pupating. Our results demonstrate the conservation of Gemin3 protein function in metazoan snRNP assembly and reveal that loss of either Smn or Gemin3 can contribute to neuromuscular dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC2613097  PMID: 18923150
13.  Actin-dependent intranuclear repositioning of an active gene locus in vivo 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2007;179(6):1095-1103.
Although bulk chromatin is thought to have limited mobility within the interphase eukaryotic nucleus, directed long-distance chromosome movements are not unknown. Cajal bodies (CBs) are nuclear suborganelles that nonrandomly associate with small nuclear RNA (snRNA) and histone gene loci in human cells during interphase. However, the mechanism responsible for this association is uncertain. In this study, we present an experimental system to probe the dynamic interplay of CBs with a U2 snRNA target gene locus during transcriptional activation in living cells. Simultaneous four-dimensional tracking of CBs and U2 genes reveals that target loci are recruited toward relatively stably positioned CBs by long-range chromosomal motion. In the presence of a dominant-negative mutant of β-actin, the repositioning of activated U2 genes is markedly inhibited. This supports a model in which nuclear actin is required for these rapid, long-range chromosomal movements.
PMCID: PMC2140015  PMID: 18070915
14.  Two distinct arginine methyltransferases are required for biogenesis of Sm-class ribonucleoproteins 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2007;178(5):733-740.
Small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) are core components of the spliceosome. The U1, U2, U4, and U5 snRNPs each contain a common set of seven Sm proteins. Three of these Sm proteins are posttranslationally modified to contain symmetric dimethylarginine (sDMA) residues within their C-terminal tails. However, the precise function of this modification in the snRNP biogenesis pathway is unclear. Several lines of evidence suggest that the methyltransferase protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5) is responsible for sDMA modification of Sm proteins. We found that in human cells, PRMT5 and a newly discovered type II methyltransferase, PRMT7, are each required for Sm protein sDMA modification. Furthermore, we show that the two enzymes function nonredundantly in Sm protein methylation. Lastly, we provide in vivo evidence demonstrating that Sm protein sDMA modification is required for snRNP biogenesis in human cells.
PMCID: PMC2064538  PMID: 17709427
15.  SMN, the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Protein, Forms a Pre-Import Snrnp Complex with Snurportin1 and Importin β 
Human molecular genetics  2002;11(15):1785-1795.
The survival of motor neuron (SMN) protein is mutated in patients with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). SMN is part of a multiprotein complex required for biogenesis of the Sm class of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). Following assembly of the Sm core domain, snRNPs are transported to the nucleus via importin β. Sm snRNPs contain a nuclear localization signal (NLS) consisting of a 2,2,7-trimethylguanosine (TMG) cap and the Sm core. Snurportin1 (SPN) is the adaptor protein that recognizes both the TMG cap and importin β. Here, we report that a mutant SPN construct lacking the importin β binding domain (IBB), but containing an intact TMG cap-binding domain, localizes primarily to the nucleus, whereas full-length SPN localizes to the cytoplasm. The nuclear localization of the mutant SPN was not a result of passive diffusion through the nuclear pores. Importantly, we found that SPN interacts with SMN, Gemin3, Sm snRNPs and importin β. In the presence of ribonucleases, the interactions with SMN and Sm proteins were abolished, indicating that snRNAs mediate this interplay. Cell fractionation studies showed that SPN binds preferentially to cytoplasmic SMN complexes. Notably, we found that SMN directly interacts with importin β in a GST-pulldown assay, suggesting that the SMN complex might represent the Sm core NLS receptor predicted by previous studies. Therefore, we conclude that, following Sm protein assembly, the SMN complex persists until the final stages of cytoplasmic snRNP maturation and may provide somatic cell RNPs with an alternative NLS.
PMCID: PMC1630493  PMID: 12095920
16.  Targeting SMN to Cajal bodies and nuclear gems during neuritogenesis 
Chromosoma  2004;112(8):398-409.
Neurite outgrowth is a central feature of neuronal differentiation. PC12 cells are a good model system for studying the peripheral nervous system and the outgrowth of neurites. In addition to the dramatic changes observed in the cytoplasm, neuronal differentiation is also accompanied by striking changes in nuclear morphology. The large and sustained increase in nuclear transcription during neuronal differentiation requires synthesis of a large number of factors involved in pre-mRNA processing. We show that the number and composition of the nuclear subdomains called Cajal bodies and gems changes during the course of N-ras-induced neuritogenesis in the PC12-derived cell line UR61. The Cajal bodies found in undifferentiated cells are largely devoid of the survival of motor neurons (SMN) protein product. As cells shift to a differentiated state, SMN is not only globally upregulated, but is progressively recruited to Cajal bodies. Additional SMN foci (also known as Gemini bodies, gems) can also be detected. Using dual-immunogold labeling electron microscopy and mouse embryonic fibroblasts lacking the coilin protein, we show that gems clearly represent a distinct category of nuclear body.
PMCID: PMC1592132  PMID: 15164213
17.  The C-terminal domain of coilin interacts with Sm proteins and U snRNPs 
Chromosoma  2005;114(3):155-166.
Coilin is the signature protein of the Cajal body (CB), a nuclear suborganelle involved in the biogenesis of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). Newly imported Sm-class snRNPs are thought to traffic through CBs before proceeding to their final nuclear destinations. Loss of coilin function in mice leads to significant viability and fertility problems. Coilin interacts directly with the spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) protein via dimethylarginine residues in its C-terminal domain. Although coilin hypomethylation results in delocalization of survival of motor neurons (SMN) from CBs, high concentrations of snRNPs remain within these structures. Thus, CBs appear to be involved in snRNP maturation, but factors that tether snRNPs to CBs have not been described. In this report, we demonstrate that the coilin C-terminal domain binds directly to various Sm and Lsm proteins via their Sm motifs. We show that the region of coilin responsible for this binding activity is separable from that which binds to SMN. Interestingly, U2, U4, U5, and U6 snRNPs interact with the coilin C-terminal domain in a glutathione S-transferase (GST)-pulldown assay, whereas U1 and U7 snRNPs do not. Thus, the ability to interact with free Sm (and Lsm) proteins as well as with intact snRNPs, indicates that coilin and CBs may facilitate the modification of newly formed snRNPs, the regeneration of ‘mature’ snRNPs, or the reclamation of unassembled snRNP components.
PMCID: PMC1389727  PMID: 16003501
18.  A Drosophila melanogaster model of spinal muscular atrophy reveals a function for SMN in striated muscle 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2007;176(6):831-841.
Mutations in human survival motor neurons 1 (SMN1) cause spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and are associated with defects in assembly of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) in vitro. However, the etiological link between snRNPs and SMA is unclear. We have developed a Drosophila melanogaster system to model SMA in vivo. Larval-lethal Smn-null mutations show no detectable snRNP reduction, making it unlikely that these animals die from global snRNP deprivation. Hypomorphic mutations in Smn reduce dSMN protein levels in the adult thorax, causing flightlessness and acute muscular atrophy. Mutant flight muscle motoneurons display pronounced axon routing and arborization defects. Moreover, Smn mutant myofibers fail to form thin filaments and phenocopy null mutations in Act88F, which is the flight muscle–specific actin isoform. In wild-type muscles, dSMN colocalizes with sarcomeric actin and forms a complex with α-actinin, the thin filament crosslinker. The sarcomeric localization of Smn is conserved in mouse myofibrils. These observations suggest a muscle-specific function for SMN and underline the importance of this tissue in modulating SMA severity.
PMCID: PMC2064057  PMID: 17353360
19.  UV-induced fragmentation of Cajal bodies 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2006;175(3):401-413.
The morphology and composition of subnuclear organelles, such as Cajal bodies (CBs), nucleoli, and other nuclear bodies, is dynamic and can change in response to a variety of cell stimuli, including stress. We show that UV-C irradiation disrupts CBs and alters the distribution of a specific subset of CB components. The effect of UV-C on CBs differs from previously reported effects of transcription inhibitors. We demonstrate that the mechanism underlying the response of CBs to UV-C is mediated, at least in part, by PA28γ (proteasome activator subunit γ). The presence of PA28γ in coilin-containing complexes is increased by UV-C. Overexpression of PA28γ, in the absence of UV-C treatment, provokes a similar redistribution of the same subset of CB components that respond to UV-C. RNA interference–mediated knockdown of PA28γ attenuates the nuclear disruption caused by UV-C. These data demonstrate that CBs are specific nuclear targets of cellular stress-response pathways and identify PA28γ as a novel regulator of CB integrity.
PMCID: PMC2064518  PMID: 17088425
20.  In Vivo Kinetics of Cajal Body Components 
The Journal of cell biology  2004;164(6):831-842.
Cajal bodies (CBs) are subnuclear domains implicated in small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) biogenesis. In most cell types, CBs coincide with nuclear gems, which contain the survival of motor neurons (SMN) complex, an essential snRNP assembly factor. Here, we analyze the exchange kinetics of multiple components of CBs and gems in living cells using photobleaching microscopy. We demonstrate differences in dissociation kinetics of CB constituents and relate them to their functions. Coilin and SMN complex members exhibit relatively long CB residence times, whereas components of snRNPs, small nucleolar RNPs, and factors shared with the nucleolus have significantly shorter residence times. Comparison of the dissociation kinetics of these shared proteins from either the nucleolus or the CB suggests the existence of compartment-specific retention mechanisms. The dynamic properties of several CB components do not depend on their interaction with coilin because their dissociation kinetics are unaltered in residual nuclear bodies of coilin knockout cells. Photobleaching and fluorescence resonance energy transfer experiments demonstrate that coilin and SMN can interact within CBs, but their interaction is not the major determinant of their residence times. These results suggest that CBs and gems are kinetically independent structures.
PMCID: PMC1630494  PMID: 15024031
Cajal body; gems; coilin; SMN; iFRAP
21.  Drosophila Cajal bodies: accessories not included 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2006;172(6):791-793.
Cajal bodies are nuclear sites of small ribonucleoprotein (RNP) remodeling and maturation. A recent study describes the discovery of the Drosophila Cajal body, revealing some interesting insights into the subnuclear organization of RNA processing machineries among different species.
PMCID: PMC2063721  PMID: 16533940
22.  Cross-Talk between Snurportin1 SubdomainsD⃞ 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2005;16(10):4660-4671.
The initial steps of spliceosomal small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) maturation take place in the cytoplasm. After formation of an Sm-core and a trimethylguanosine (TMG) cap, the RNPs are transported into the nucleus via the import adaptor snurportin1 (SPN) and the import receptor importin-β. To better understand this process, we identified SPN residues that are required to mediate interactions with TMG caps, importin-β, and the export receptor, exportin1 (Xpo1/Crm1). Mutation of a single arginine residue within the importin-β binding domain (IBB) disrupted the interaction with importin-β, but preserved the ability of SPN to bind Xpo1 or TMG caps. Nuclear transport assays showed that this IBB mutant is deficient for snRNP import but that import can be rescued by addition of purified survival of motor neurons (SMN) protein complexes. Conserved tryptophan residues outside of the IBB are required for TMG binding. However, SPN can be imported into the nucleus without cargo. Interestingly, SPN targets to Cajal bodies when U2 but not U1 snRNPs are imported as cargo. SPN also relocalizes to Cajal bodies upon treatment with leptomycin B. Finally, we uncovered an interaction between the N- and C-terminal domains of SPN, suggesting an autoregulatory function similar to that of importin-α.
PMCID: PMC1237072  PMID: 16030253
23.  In vivo kinetics of Cajal body components 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;164(6):831-842.
Cajal bodies (CBs) are subnuclear domains implicated in small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) biogenesis. In most cell types, CBs coincide with nuclear gems, which contain the survival of motor neurons (SMN) complex, an essential snRNP assembly factor. Here, we analyze the exchange kinetics of multiple components of CBs and gems in living cells using photobleaching microscopy. We demonstrate differences in dissociation kinetics of CB constituents and relate them to their functions. Coilin and SMN complex members exhibit relatively long CB residence times, whereas components of snRNPs, small nucleolar RNPs, and factors shared with the nucleolus have significantly shorter residence times. Comparison of the dissociation kinetics of these shared proteins from either the nucleolus or the CB suggests the existence of compartment-specific retention mechanisms. The dynamic properties of several CB components do not depend on their interaction with coilin because their dissociation kinetics are unaltered in residual nuclear bodies of coilin knockout cells. Photobleaching and fluorescence resonance energy transfer experiments demonstrate that coilin and SMN can interact within CBs, but their interaction is not the major determinant of their residence times. These results suggest that CBs and gems are kinetically independent structures.
PMCID: PMC1630494  PMID: 15024031
Cajal body; gems; coilin; SMN; iFRAP
24.  RNA-mediated interaction of Cajal bodies and U2 snRNA genes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2001;154(3):499-510.
Cajal bodies (CBs) are nuclear structures involved in RNA metabolism that accumulate high concentrations of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). Notably, CBs preferentially associate with specific genomic loci in interphase human cells, including several snRNA and histone gene clusters. To uncover functional elements involved in the interaction of genes and CBs, we analyzed the expression and subcellular localization of stably transfected artificial arrays of U2 snRNA genes. Although promoter substitution arrays colocalized with CBs, constructs containing intragenic deletions did not. Additional experiments identified factors within CBs that are important for association with the native U2 genes. Inhibition of nuclear export or targeted degradation of U2 snRNPs caused a marked decrease in the levels of U2 snRNA in CBs and strongly disrupted the interaction with U2 genes. Together, the results illustrate a specific requirement for both the snRNA transcripts as well as the presence of snRNPs (or snRNP proteins) within CBs. Our data thus provide significant insight into the mechanism of CB interaction with snRNA loci, strengthening the putative role for this nuclear suborganelle in snRNP biogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2196410  PMID: 11489914
snRNPs; snRNAs; RNU2 loci; nuclear bodies; RNA processing
25.  Residual Cajal bodies in coilin knockout mice fail to recruit Sm snRNPs and SMN, the spinal muscular atrophy gene product 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2001;154(2):293-308.
Cajal bodies (CBs) are nuclear suborganelles involved in the biogenesis of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). In addition to snRNPs, they are highly enriched in basal transcription and cell cycle factors, the nucleolar proteins fibrillarin (Fb) and Nopp140 (Nopp), the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein complex, and the CB marker protein, p80 coilin. We report the generation of knockout mice lacking the COOH-terminal 487 amino acids of coilin. Northern and Western blot analyses demonstrate that we have successfully removed the full-length coilin protein from the knockout animals. Some homozygous mutant animals are viable, but their numbers are reduced significantly when crossed to inbred backgrounds. Analysis of tissues and cell lines from mutant animals reveals the presence of extranucleolar foci that contain Fb and Nopp but not other typical nucleolar markers. These so-called “residual” CBs neither condense Sm proteins nor recruit members of the SMN protein complex. Transient expression of wild-type mouse coilin in knockout cells results in formation of CBs and restores these missing epitopes. Our data demonstrate that full-length coilin is essential for proper formation and/or maintenance of CBs and that recruitment of snRNP and SMN complex proteins to these nuclear subdomains requires sequences within the coilin COOH terminus.
PMCID: PMC2150753  PMID: 11470819
coilin; SMN; SMA; snRNPs; nuclear organization

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