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1.  Correction to RNA Biology Volume 10, Issue 6 
RNA Biology  2014;11(6):789.
The citations for several articles in RNA Biology Volume 10, Issue 6 were submitted incorrectly. Page numbers have been updated for the affected articles in the citations below.
PMCID: PMC4156510
2.  RNA families in Epstein–Barr virus 
RNA Biology  2013;11(1):10-17.
Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) is a tumorigenic human γ-herpesvirus, which produces several known structured RNAs with functional importance: two are implicated in latency maintenance and tumorigenic phenotypes, EBER1 and EBER2; a viral small nucleolar RNA (v-snoRNA1) that may generate a small regulatory RNA; and an internal ribosomal entry site in the EBNA1 mRNA. A recent bioinformatics and RNA-Seq study of EBV identified two novel EBV non-coding (nc)RNAs with evolutionary conservation in lymphocryptoviruses and likely functional importance. Both RNAs are transcribed from a repetitive region of the EBV genome (the W repeats) during a highly oncogenic type of viral latency. One novel ncRNA can form a massive (586 nt) hairpin, while the other RNA is generated from a short (81 nt) intron and is found in high abundance in EBV-infected cells.
PMCID: PMC3929418  PMID: 24441309
EBER; Epstein–Barr virus; latency; ncRNA; pseudoknot; stable intronic sequence RNA
3.  Toward a crystal-clear view of the viral RNA sensing and response by RIG-I-like receptors 
RNA Biology  2014;11(1):25-32.
The RIG-I-like receptors (RLRs)—RIG-I, MDA5, and LGP2—detect intracellular pathogenic RNA and elicit an antiviral immune response during viral infection. The protein architecture of the RLR family consists of multiple functional domains, including N-terminal Caspase Activation and Recruitment Domains (CARDs) for signaling initiation, a central RNA helicase core, and a C-terminal domain for RNA sensing. With these specialized sensing-and-responding modules, RLRs are able to selectively bind non-self RNA species and trigger downstream signaling events leading to interferon production. This article summarizes the recent progress toward defining the precise mechanisms of RNA recognition and subsequent signal induction by RLRs.
PMCID: PMC3929420  PMID: 24457940
innate immunity; helicase; signal transduction; virus infection; X-ray crystallography
4.  pRNA 
RNA Biology  2013;11(1):3-9.
Promoter-associated RNAs (pRNAs) are a family of ~90–100 nt-long divergent RNAs overlapping the promoter of the rRNA (rDNA) operon. pRNA transcripts interact with TIP5, a component of the chromatin remodeling complex NoRC, which recruits enzymes for heterochromatin formation and mediates silencing of rRNA genes. Here we present a comprehensive analysis of pRNA homologs, including different versions per species, as result of in silico studies in available metazoan genome assemblies. Comparative sequence analysis and secondary structure prediction ended up in two possible secondary structures, which let us assume a possible dual function of pRNAs for regulation of rRNA operons. Furthermore, we validated parts of our computational predictions experimentally by RT-PCR and sequencing. A representative seed alignment of the pRNA family, annotated with possible secondary structures was released to the Rfam database.
PMCID: PMC3929421  PMID: 24440945
promoter-associated RNA; non-coding RNA; ribosomal RNA; gene silencing
5.  Efficient engineering of a bacteriophage genome using the type I-E CRISPR-Cas system 
RNA Biology  2014;11(1):42-44.
The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-CRISPR-associated (Cas) system has recently been used to engineer genomes of various organisms, but surprisingly, not those of bacteriophages (phages). Here we present a method to genetically engineer the Escherichia coli phage T7 using the type I-E CRISPR-Cas system. T7 phage genome is edited by homologous recombination with a DNA sequence flanked by sequences homologous to the desired location. Non-edited genomes are targeted by the CRISPR-Cas system, thus enabling isolation of the desired recombinant phages. This method broadens CRISPR Cas-based editing to phages and uses a CRISPR-Cas type other than type II. The method may be adjusted to genetically engineer any bacteriophage genome.
PMCID: PMC3929423  PMID: 24457913
Escherichia coli; Bacteriophage T7; homologous recombination; positive selection; negative selection; genetic engineering; spacer targeting
6.  Sequence, structure, and stacking 
RNA Biology  2013;10(12):1761-1764.
The term riboswitch usually refers to small molecule sensing regulatory modules in the 5′ untranslated regions of a mRNA. They are typically comprised of separate ligand binding and regulatory domains. The T box riboswitch is unique from other identified riboswitches because its effector is an essential macromolecule, tRNA. It senses the aminoacylation state of tRNA to regulate genes involved in a variety of functions relating to amino acid metabolism and tRNA aminoacylation. T box riboswitches performs an intuitively simple process using a complex structured RNA element and, until recently, the underlying mechanisms were poorly understood. Only two sequence-specific contacts had been previously identified: (1) between the specifier sequence (codon) and the tRNA anticodon and (2) between an anti-terminator stem loop and the tRNA acceptor arm CCA tail. tRNA aminoacylation blocks the latter interaction and therefore serves as the switch between termination and anti-termination. Outside of these two contacts, the structure and functions of T box riboswitches have come to light in some recent studies. We recently described the X-ray crystal structure of the highly conserved T box riboswitch distal Stem I region and demonstrated that this region interacts with the tRNA elbow to anchor it to the riboswitch. Independently, Lehmann et al. used sequence homology search to arrive at a similar model for Stem I-tRNA interactions. The model was further supported by two recent structures of the Stem I-tRNA complex, determined independently by our group and by Zhang and Ferré-D’Amaré. This article highlights some of these contributions to synthesize an updated model for tRNA recognition by the T box riboswitch.
PMCID: PMC3917978  PMID: 24356646
RNA; structure; T-loop; interlocking T-loop; RNA-RNA complex
7.  RNA transport and long-term memory storage 
RNA Biology  2013;10(12):1765-1770.
Several studies have shown that synthesis of new proteins at the synapse is a prerequisite for the storage of long-term memories. Relatively little is known about the availability of distinct mRNA populations for translation at specific synapses, the process that determines mRNA localization, and the temporal designations of localized mRNA translation during memory storage. Techniques such as synaptosome preparation and microdissection of distal neuronal processes of cultured neurons and dendritic layers in brain slices are general approaches used to identify localized RNAs. Exploration of the association of RNA-binding proteins to the axonal transport machinery has led to the development of a strategy to identify RNAs that are transported from the cell body to synapses by molecular motor kinesin. In this article, RNA localization at the synapse, as well as its mechanisms and significance in understanding long-term memory storage, are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3917979  PMID: 24356491
RNA transport; RNAseq; kinesin; local translation; memory storage; signaling network; synapses
8.  Transcribed ultraconserved region in human cancers 
RNA Biology  2013;10(12):1771-1777.
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are transcripts longer than ~200 nucleotides with little or no protein-coding capacity. Growing evidence shows that lncRNAs present important function in development and are associated with many human diseases such as cancers, Alzheimer disease, and heart diseases. Transcribed ultraconserved region (T-UCR) transcripts are a novel class of lncRNAs transcribed from ultraconserved regions (UCRs). UCRs are absolutely conserved (100%) between the orthologous regions of the human, rat, and mouse genomes. The UCRs are frequently located at fragile sites and at genomic regions involved in cancers. Recent data suggest that T-UCRs are altered at the transcriptional level in human tumorigenesis and the aberrant T-UCRs expression profiles can be used to differentiate human cancer types. The profound understanding of T-UCRs can throw new light on the pathogenesis of human cancers.
PMCID: PMC3917980  PMID: 24384562
transcribed ultraconserved regions; long non-coding RNAs; mechanism of regulation; aberrant expression; cancers
9.  Regulatory RNAs 
RNA Biology  2013;10(12):1778-1797.
RNAs have many important functional properties, including that they are independently controllable and highly tunable. As a result of these advantageous properties, their use in a myriad of sophisticated devices has been widely explored. Yet, the exploitation of RNAs for synthetic applications is highly dependent on the ability to characterize the many new molecules that continue to be discovered by large-scale sequencing and high-throughput screening techniques. In this review, we present an exhaustive survey of the most recent synthetic bacterial riboswitches and small RNAs while emphasizing their virtues in gene expression management. We also explore the use of these RNA components as building blocks in the RNA synthetic biology toolbox and discuss examples of synthetic RNA components used to rewire bacterial regulatory circuitry. We anticipate that this field will expand its catalog of smart devices by mimicking and manipulating natural RNA mechanisms and functions.
PMCID: PMC3917981  PMID: 24356572
riboswitches; small RNAs; transcriptional control; translational control; RNA regulation; synthetic RNAs; RNAs and biotechnology
10.  MiR-193b and miR-365-1 are not required for the development and function of brown fat in the mouse 
RNA Biology  2013;10(12):1807-1814.
Generating heat and maintaining body temperature is the primary function of brown adipose tissue (BAT). Previous studies have implicated microRNAs, including miR-193b and miR-365-1, in BAT differentiation. We used mouse genetics to further understand the specific contributions of these two miRs. BAT function in mice with an inactivated miR-193b-365-1 locus, as determined by their response to the selective β3 adrenergic receptor agonist CL316.243 and their tolerance to cold exposure, was normal and expression of genes associated with functional BAT, including Prdm16 and Ucp1, was unaffected. In addition, genome-wide expression profiles of miRNAs and mRNAs in BAT in the presence and absence of miR-193b-365-1 were determined. In summary, these data demonstrate, in contrast to earlier work, that the development, differentiation, and function of BAT do not require the presence of miR-193b and miR-365-1.
PMCID: PMC3917983  PMID: 24356587
RNA-seq; brown fat; gene knock-out; miR-193b; mouse
11.  Microscale thermophoresis provides insights into mechanism and thermodynamics of ribozyme catalysis 
RNA Biology  2013;10(12):1815-1821.
The analysis of binding interactions between small molecules and biopolymers is important for understanding biological processes. While fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) requires fluorescence labeling on the small molecule, which often interferes with binding, in microscale thermophoresis (MST) the label can be placed on the biopolymer. Ribozymes have not been analyzed by MST so far. The Diels-Alderase ribozyme (DAse) is a true catalyst, facilitating the Diels-Alder reaction between two free small substrates, anthracene dienes, and maleimide dienophiles. Despite high efforts, the determination of the dissociation constant (KD) of maleimide dienophiles to the DAse by FCS has been unsuccessful. Here, we determined the binding interactions of the DAse to its substrates and the Diels-Alder product using MST. The results supported a positive cooperativity for substrate binding to the DAse. By varying the temperature, we furthermore studied the thermodynamics of dienophile dissociation. The entropic contribution was found to be the energetic driving force for the binding of the dienophile to the DAse.
PMCID: PMC3917984  PMID: 24448206
microscale thermophoresis; fluorescence correlation spectroscopy; ribozyme; thermodynamics; Diels-Alder reaction
12.  Regulation of Dscam exon 17 alternative splicing by steric hindrance in combination with RNA secondary structures 
RNA Biology  2013;10(12):1822-1833.
The gene Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (Dscam) potentially encodes 38 016 distinct isoforms in Drosophila melanogaster via mutually exclusive splicing. Here we reveal a combinatorial mechanism of regulation of Dscam exon 17 mutually exclusive splicing through steric hindrance in combination with RNA secondary structure. This mutually exclusive behavior is enforced by steric hindrance, due to the close proximity of the exon 17.2 branch point to exon 17.1 in Diptera, and the interval size constraint in non-Dipteran species. Moreover, intron-exon RNA structures are evolutionarily conserved in 36 non-Drosophila species of six distantly related orders (Diptera, Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Hemiptera, and Phthiraptera), which regulates the selection of exon 17 variants via masking the splice site. By contrast, a previously uncharacterized RNA structure specifically activated exon 17.1 by bringing splice sites closer together in Drosophila, while the other moderately suppressed exon 17.1 selection by hindering the accessibility of polypyrimidine sequences. Taken together, these data suggest a phylogeny of increased complexity in regulating alternative splicing of Dscam exon 17 spanning more than 300 million years of insect evolution. These results also provide models of the regulation of alternative splicing through steric hindrance in combination with dynamic structural codes.
PMCID: PMC3917985  PMID: 24448213
mutually exclusive splicing; steric hindrance; RNA secondary structures; Dscam exon 17; evolution
13.  Screening of small molecules affecting mammalian P-body assembly uncovers links with diverse intracellular processes and organelle physiology 
RNA Biology  2013;10(11):1661-1669.
Processing bodies (P-bodies) are cytoplasmatic mRNP granules containing non-translating mRNAs and proteins from the mRNA decay and silencing machineries. The mechanism of P-body assembly has been typically addressed by depleting P-body components. Here we apply a complementary approach and establish an automated cell-based assay platform to screen for molecules affecting P-body assembly. From a unique library of compounds derived from myxobacteria, 30 specifically inhibited P-body assembly. Gephyronic acid A (GA), a eukaryotic protein synthesis inhibitor, showed the strongest effect. GA also inhibited, under stress conditions, phosphorylation of eIF2α and stress granule formation. Other hits uncovered interesting novel links between P-body assembly, lipid metabolism, and internal organelle physiology. The obtained results provide a chemical toolbox to manipulate P-body assembly and function.
PMCID: PMC3907476  PMID: 24418890
P-body assembly; eIF2α; gephyronic acid A; inhibitors; myxobacterial metabolites; processing bodies; stress granules
14.  Aberrantly spliced HTT, a new player in Huntington’s disease pathogenesis 
RNA Biology  2013;10(11):1647-1652.
Huntington’s disease (HD) is an adult-onset neurodegenerative disorder caused by a mutated CAG repeat in the huntingtin gene that is translated into an expanded polyglutamine tract. The clinical manifestation of HD is a progressive physical, cognitive, and psychiatric deterioration that is eventually fatal.
The mutant huntingtin protein is processed into several smaller fragments, which have been implicated as critical factors in HD pathogenesis. The search for proteases responsible for their production has led to the identification of several cleavage sites on the huntingtin protein. However, the origin of the small N-terminal fragments that are found in HD postmortem brains has remained elusive. Recent mapping of huntingtin fragments in a mouse model demonstrated that the smallest N-terminal fragment is an exon 1 protein. This discovery spurred our hypothesis that mis-splicing as opposed to proteolysis could be generating the smallest huntingtin fragment. We demonstrated that mis-splicing of mutant huntingtin intron 1 does indeed occur and results in a short polyadenylated mRNA, which is translated into an exon 1 protein.
The exon 1 protein fragment is highly pathogenic. Transgenic mouse models containing just human huntingtin exon 1 develop a rapid onset of HD-like symptoms. Our finding that a small, mis-spliced HTT transcript and corresponding exon 1 protein are produced in the context of an expanded CAG repeat has unraveled a new molecular mechanism in HD pathogenesis. Here we present detailed models of how mis-splicing could be facilitated, what challenges remain in this model, and implications for therapeutic studies.
PMCID: PMC3907474  PMID: 24256709
HTT exon 1; Huntington’s disease; SRSF6; huntingtin fragment; mis-splicing
15.  Kinetoplast DNA-encoded ribosomal protein S12 
RNA Biology  2013;10(11):1679-1688.
Mitochondrial ribosomes of Trypanosoma brucei are composed of 9S and 12S rRNAs, which are encoded by the kinetoplast genome, and more than 150 proteins encoded in the nucleus and imported from the cytoplasm. However, a single ribosomal protein RPS12 is encoded by the kinetoplast DNA (kDNA) in all trypanosomatid species examined. As typical for these organisms, the gene itself is cryptic and its transcript undergoes an extensive U-insertion/deletion editing. An evolutionary trend to reduce or eliminate RNA editing could be traced with other cryptogenes, but the invariably pan-edited RPS12 cryptogene is apparently spared. Here we inquired whether editing of RPS12 mRNA is essential for mitochondrial translation. By RNAi-mediated knockdowns of RNA editing complexes and inducible knock-in of a key editing enzyme in procyclic parasites, we could reversibly downregulate production of edited RPS12 mRNA and, by inference, synthesis of this protein. While inhibition of editing decreased edited mRNA levels, the translation of edited (Cyb) and unedited (COI) mRNAs was blocked. Furthermore, the population of SSU-related 45S complexes declined upon inactivation of editing and so did the amount of mRNA-bound ribosomes. In bloodstream parasites, which lack active electron transport chain but still require translation of ATP synthase subunit 6 mRNA (A6), both edited RPS12 and A6 mRNAs were detected in translation complexes. Collectively, our results indicate that a single ribosomal protein gene retained by the kinetoplast mitochondrion serves as a possible functional link between editing and translation processes and provide the rationale for the evolutionary conservation of RPS12 pan-editing.
PMCID: PMC3907478  PMID: 24270388
mitochondria; RNA editing; polyadenylation; translation; kDNA; TUTase
16.  Homologous SV40 RNA trans-splicing 
RNA Biology  2013;10(11):1689-1699.
Simian Virus 40 (SV40) is a polyomavirus found in both monkeys and humans, which causes cancer in some animal models. In humans, SV40 has been reported to be associated with cancers but causality has not been proven yet. The transforming activity of SV40 is mainly due to its 94-kD large T antigen, which binds to the retinoblastoma (pRb) and p53 tumor suppressor proteins, and thereby perturbs their functions. Here we describe a 100 kD super T antigen harboring a duplication of the pRB binding domain that was associated with unusual high cell transformation activity and that was generated by a novel mechanism involving homologous RNA trans-splicing of SV40 early transcripts in transformed rodent cells. Enhanced trans-splice activity was observed in clones carrying a single point mutation in the large T antigen 5′ donor splice site (ss). This mutation impaired cis-splicing in favor of an alternative trans-splice reaction via a cryptic 5′ss within a second cis-spliced SV40 pre-mRNA molecule and enabled detectable gene expression. Next to the cryptic 5′ss we identified additional trans-splice helper functions, including putative dimerization domains and a splice enhancer sequence. Our findings suggest RNA trans-splicing as a SV40-intrinsic mechanism that supports the diversification of viral RNA and phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3907479  PMID: 24178438
alternative splicing; trans-splicing; viral gene expression; SV40 100 kD super T antigen; cell transformation; molecular basis of diseases
17.  Depletion of hnRNP A2/B1 overrides the nuclear retention of the HIV-1 genomic RNA 
RNA Biology  2013;10(11):1714-1725.
hnRNP A2 is a cellular protein that is important for nucleocytoplasmic and cytosolic trafficking of the HIV-1 genomic RNA. Both hnRNP A2’s interaction with HIV-1 RNA and its expression levels influence the activities of Rev in mediating nucleocytoplasmic export of the HIV-1 genomic RNA. While the lack of Rev expression during HIV-1 gene expression results in nuclear retention of HIV-1 genomic RNA, we show here by fluorescence in situ hybridization and fractionation studies that the genomic RNA translocates to the cytoplasm when hnRNP A2/B1 are depleted from cells. Polyribosome analyses revealed that the genomic RNA was shunted into a cytoplasmic, dense polyribosomal fraction. This fraction contained several RNA-binding proteins involved in viral gene expression and RNA trafficking but did not contain the translation initiation factor, eIF4G1. Amino acid incorporation into nascent polypeptides in this fraction was also greatly reduced, demonstrating that this fraction contains mRNAs that are poorly translated. These results demonstrate that hnRNP A2/B1 expression plays roles in the nuclear retention of the HIV-1 genomic RNA in the absence of Rev and in the release of the genomic RNA from translationally inactive, cytoplasmic RNP complexes.
PMCID: PMC3907481  PMID: 24157614
HIV-1 RNA; RNA trafficking; nuclear retention; hnRNP A2/B1
18.  Length variants of the 5′ untranslated region of p53 mRNA and their impact on the efficiency of translation initiation of p53 and its N-truncated isoform ΔNp53 
RNA Biology  2013;10(11):1726-1740.
Recently, we have determined the secondary structure of the 5′-terminal region of p53 mRNA that starts from the P1 transcription initiation site and includes two major translation initiation codons responsible for the synthesis of p53 and ΔNp53 isoform. Here, we showed that when this region was extended into 5′ direction to the P0 transcription start site, the two characteristic hairpin motifs found in this region were preserved. Moreover, the presence of alternatively spliced intron 2 did not interfere with the formation of the larger hairpin in which the initiation codon for p53 was embedded. The impact of the different variants of p53 5′-terminal region, which start at P0 or P1 site and end with the initiation codon for p53 or ΔNp53, on the translation of luciferase reporter protein was compared. Strikingly, the efficiency of translation performed in rabbit reticulocyte lysate differed by two orders of magnitude. The toe-printing analysis was also applied to investigate the formation of the ribosomal complex on the model mRNA constructs. The relative translation efficiencies in HeLa and MCF-7 cells were similar to those observed in the cell lysate, although some differences were noted in comparison with cell-free conditions. The results were discussed in terms of the role of secondary structure folding of the 5′-terminal region of p53 mRNA in translation and possible modes of p53 and ΔNp53 translation initiation.
PMCID: PMC3907482  PMID: 24418891
5′ non-coding region; 5′ untranslated region; RNA structure; p53 isoform; p53 mRNA; translation initiation
19.  Chromatin context and ncRNA highlight targets of MeCP2 in brain 
RNA Biology  2013;10(11):1741-1757.
The discovery that Rett syndrome (RTT) is caused by mutation of the methyl-CpG-binding-protein MeCP2 provided a major breakthrough in understanding the neurodevelopmental disorder and accelerated MeCP2 research. However, gene regulation by MeCP2 is complicated. The current consensus for MeCP2 remains as a classical repressor complex, with major emphasis on its role in methylation-dependent binding and repression. However, recent evidence indicates additional regulatory roles, suggesting non-classical mechanisms in gene activation. This has opened the field of MeCP2 research and suggests that the gene targets may not be the usual suspects, that is, dependent only on DNA methylation. Here we examine how chromatin binding and sequence preference may confer MeCP2 functionality, and connect relevant pathways in an active genome. Finding both genomic and proteomic evidence to indicate MeCP2 spliceosome interaction, we consequently discovered broad MeCP2 enrichment of the transcriptome while our focus toward long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) revealed MeCP2 association with RNCR3. Our data may indicate an as-yet-unappreciated role between lncRNA and MeCP2. We hypothesize that ncRNA may mediate chromatin-remodeling events by interacting with MeCP2, thereby conferring changes in gene expression. We consider that these results may suggest new mechanisms of gene regulation conferred by MeCP2 and its interactions upon chromatin structure and gene function.
PMCID: PMC3907483  PMID: 24270455
MeCP2; chromatin; gene expression; DNA methylation; spliceosome; ncRNA
20.  The long non-coding RNA Fendrr links epigenetic control mechanisms to gene regulatory networks in mammalian embryogenesis 
RNA Biology  2013;10(10):1579-1585.
Epigenetic control mechanisms determine active and silenced regions of the genome. It is known that the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) and the Trithorax group/Mixed lineage leukemia (TrxG/Mll) complex are able to set repressive and active histone marks, respectively. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) can interact with either of these complexes and guide them to regulatory elements, thereby modifying the expression levels of target genes. The lncRNA Fendrr is transiently expressed in lateral mesoderm of mid-gestational mouse embryos and was shown to interact with both PRC2 and TrxG/Mll complexes in vivo. Gene targeting revealed that loss of Fendrr results in impaired differentiation of tissues derived from lateral mesoderm, the heart and the body wall, ultimately leading to embryonic death. Molecular data suggests that Fendrr acts via dsDNA/RNA triplex formation at target regulatory elements, and directly increases PRC2 occupancy at these sites. This, in turn, modifies the ratio of repressive to active marks, adjusting the expression levels of Fendrr target genes in lateral mesoderm. We propose that Fendrr also mediates long-term epigenetic marks to define expression levels of its target genes within the descendants of lateral mesoderm cells. Here we discuss approaches for lncRNA gene knockouts in the mouse, and suggest a model how Fendrr and possibly other lncRNAs act during embryogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3866236  PMID: 24036695
long non-coding RNA; lncRNA; Fendrr; histone modification; epigenetic control; Polycomb Repressive Complex 2; embryogenesis; mouse
21.  Trip to ER 
RNA Biology  2013;10(10):1586-1592.
miRNAs elicit gene silencing at the post-transcriptional level by several modes of action: translational repression, mRNA decay, and mRNA cleavage. Studies in animals have suggested that translational repression occurs at early steps of translation initiation, which can be followed by deadenylation and mRNA decay. Plant miRNAs were originally thought to solely participate in mRNA cleavage, but increasing evidence has indicated that they are also commonly involved in translational inhibition. Here we discuss recent findings on miRNA-mediated translational repression in plants. The identification of AMP1 in Arabidopsis as a protein required for the translational repression but not the mRNA cleavage activity of miRNAs links miRNA-based translational repression to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Future work is required to further elucidate the miRNA machinery on the ER.
PMCID: PMC3866237  PMID: 24100209
miRNA; argonaute; translational repression; mRNA cleavage; mRNA decay; endoplasmic reticulum (ER)
22.  RNA-directed DNA methylation in plants 
RNA Biology  2013;10(10):1593-1596.
Plants use 24-nucleotide small interfering RNAs (24-nt siRNAs) and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) to direct de novo DNA methylation and transcriptional gene silencing. This process is called RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM). An important question in the RdDM model is what explains the target specificity of RNA polymerase IV (Pol IV), the enzyme that initiates siRNA production. Two recent papers addressed this question by characterizing the DTF1/SHH1 protein, which contains a homeodomain in the N-terminus and a novel histone-binding domain SAWADEE in the C terminus. Here we review the main results of the two studies and discuss several possible mechanisms that could contribute to Pol IV and Pol V recruitment.
PMCID: PMC3866238  PMID: 25003825
DNA methylation; RdDM; histone modification; lncRNA; siRNA
23.  TINCR, staufen1, and cellular differentiation 
RNA Biology  2013;10(10):1597-1601.
The human genome encodes several thousand long non-protein coding transcripts > 200 nucleotides in length, a subset of which were shown to play important roles in regulation of gene expression. We recently identified TINCR, a lncRNA required for induction of key differentiation genes in epidermal tissue, including genes mutated in human skin diseases characterized by disrupted epidermal barrier formation. High-throughput analyses of TINCR RNA- and protein-interactomes revealed TINCR interaction with differentiation mRNAs as well as the Staufen1 protein. TINCR, together with Staufen1, seems to stabilize a subset of mRNAs required for epidermal differentiation. Here, we discuss the emerging roles of Staufen1 and TINCR in the regulation of mammalian cell differentiation mediated by interaction with target mRNAs. We consider a role for TINCR as an epithelial-specific guide for targeting the Staufen1 protein to specific mRNAs, reflecting the increasing complexity of gene regulatory processes in mammalian cells and tissue.
PMCID: PMC3866239  PMID: 24019000
lncRNA; TINCR; STAU1; epidermis; skin; non-coding RNA; differentiation
24.  Non-coding Y RNAs as tethers and gates 
RNA Biology  2013;10(10):1602-1608.
Non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) called Y RNAs are abundant components of both animal cells and a variety of bacteria. In all species examined, these ~100 nt RNAs are bound to the Ro 60 kDa (Ro60) autoantigen, a ring-shaped protein that also binds misfolded ncRNAs in some vertebrate nuclei. Although the function of Ro60 RNPs has been mysterious, we recently reported that a bacterial Y RNA tethers Ro60 to the 3′ to 5′ exoribonuclease polynucleotide phosphorylase (PNPase) to form RYPER (Ro60/Y RNA/PNPase Exoribonuclease RNP), a new RNA degradation machine. PNPase is a homotrimeric ring that degrades single-stranded RNA, and Y RNA-mediated tethering of Ro60 increases the effectiveness of PNPase in degrading structured RNAs. Single particle electron microscopy of RYPER suggests that RNA threads through the Ro60 ring into the PNPase cavity. Further studies indicate that Y RNAs may also act as gates to regulate entry of RNA substrates into the Ro60 channel. These findings reveal novel functions for Y RNAs and raise questions about how the bacterial findings relate to the roles of these ncRNAs in animal cells. Here we review the literature on Y RNAs, highlighting their close relationship with Ro60 proteins and the hypothesis that these ncRNAs function generally to tether Ro60 rings to diverse RNA-binding proteins.
PMCID: PMC3866240  PMID: 24036917
RNA degradation; RYPER; Y RNAs; exoribonucleases; non-coding RNAs
25.  Degeneration of a CRISPR/Cas system and its regulatory target during the evolution of a pathogen 
RNA Biology  2013;10(10):1618-1622.
CRISPR/Cas systems are bacterial RNA-guided endonuclease machineries that target foreign nucleic acids. Recently, we demonstrated that the Cas protein Cas9 controls gene expression and virulence in Francisella novicida by altering the stability of the mRNA for an immunostimulatory bacterial lipoprotein (BLP). Genomic analyses, however, revealed that Francisella species with increased virulence harbor degenerated CRISPR/Cas systems. We hypothesize that CRISPR/Cas degeneration removed a barrier against genome alterations, which resulted in enhanced virulence. Importantly, the BLP locus was also lost; likely a necessary adaptation in the absence of Cas9-mediated repression. CRISPR/Cas systems likely play regulatory roles in numerous bacteria, and these data suggest additional genomic changes may be required to maintain fitness after CRISPR/Cas loss in such bacteria, having important evolutionary implications.
PMCID: PMC3866243  PMID: 24100224
CRISPR/Cas; regulatory RNA; gene expression; bacterial evolution; bacterial pathogenesis

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