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NEAT1_2 long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) is the molecular scaffold of paraspeckle nuclear bodies. Here, we report an improved RNA extraction method: extensive needle shearing or heating of cell lysate in RNA extraction reagent improved NEAT1_2 extraction by 20‐fold (a property we term “semi‐extractability”), whereas using a conventional method NEAT1_2 was trapped in the protein phase. The improved extraction method enabled us to estimate that approximately 50 NEAT1_2 molecules are present in a single paraspeckle. Another architectural lncRNA, IGS16, also exhibited similar semi‐extractability. A comparison of RNA‐seq data from needle‐sheared and control samples revealed the existence of multiple semi‐extractable RNAs, many of which were localized in subnuclear granule‐like structures. The semi‐extractability of NEAT1_2 correlated with its association with paraspeckle proteins and required the prion‐like domain of the RNA‐binding protein FUS. This observation suggests that tenacious RNA–protein and protein–protein interactions, which drive nuclear body formation, are responsible for semi‐extractability. Our findings provide a foundation for the discovery of the architectural RNAs that constitute nuclear bodies.
miRNAs play critical roles in various biological processes by targeting specific mRNAs. Current approaches to identifying miRNA targets are insufficient for elucidation of a miRNA regulatory network. Here, we created a cell-based screening system using a luciferase reporter library composed of 4,891 full-length cDNAs, each of which was integrated into the 3' UTR of a luciferase gene. Using this reporter library system, we conducted a screening for targets of miR-34a, a tumor-suppressor miRNA. We identified both previously characterized and previously uncharacterized targets. miR-34a overexpression in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells repressed the expression of these previously unrecognized targets. Among these targets, GFRA3 is crucial for MDA-MB-231 cell growth, and its expression correlated with the overall survival of patients with breast cancer. Furthermore, GFRA3 was found to be directly regulated by miR-34a via its coding region. These data show that this system is useful for elucidating miRNA functions and networks.
It remains unclear how post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) in plants discriminates aberrant RNAs from canonical messenger RNAs (mRNAs). The key step of plant PTGS is the conversion of aberrant RNAs into double-stranded RNAs by RNA-DEPENDENT RNA POLYMERASE6 (RDR6). Here, we show that RDR6 itself selects aberrant poly(A)-less mRNAs over canonical polyadenylated mRNAs as templates at the initiation step of complementary strand synthesis. This mechanism can be viewed as an innate safeguard against 'self-attack' by PTGS.
The RNA-guided endonuclease Cas9 generates a double-strand break at DNA target sites complementary to the guide RNA and has been harnessed for the development of a variety of new technologies, such as genome editing. Here, we report the crystal structures of Campylobacter jejuni Cas9 (CjCas9), one of the smallest Cas9 orthologs, in complex with an sgRNA and its target DNA. The structures provided insights into a minimal Cas9 scaffold and revealed the remarkable mechanistic diversity of the CRISPR-Cas9 systems. The CjCas9 guide RNA contains a triple-helix structure, which is distinct from known RNA triple helices, thereby expanding the natural repertoire of RNA triple helices. Furthermore, unlike the other Cas9 orthologs, CjCas9 contacts the nucleotide sequences in both the target and non-target DNA strands and recognizes the 5′-NNNVRYM-3′ as the protospacer-adjacent motif. Collectively, these findings improve our mechanistic understanding of the CRISPR-Cas9 systems and may facilitate Cas9 engineering.
PIWI-clade Argonaute proteins associate with PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) and silence transposable elements in animal gonads. Here, we report the crystal structure of a silkworm PIWI-clade Argonaute, Siwi, bound to the endogenous piRNA, at 2.4 Å resolution. Siwi adopts a bilobed architecture consisting of N-PAZ and MID-PIWI lobes, in which the 5' and 3' ends of the bound piRNA are anchored by the MID-PIWI and PAZ domains, respectively. A structural comparison of Siwi with AGO-clade Argonautes reveals notable differences in their nucleic-acid-binding channels, likely reflecting the distinct lengths of their guide RNAs and their mechanistic differences in guide RNA loading and cleavage product release. In addition, the structure reveals that Siwi and prokaryotic, but not eukaryotic, AGO-clade Argonautes share unexpected similarities, such as metal-dependent 5'-phosphate recognition and a potential structural transition during the catalytic-tetrad formation. Overall, this study provides a critical starting point toward a mechanistic understanding of piRNA-mediated transposon silencing.
Paraspeckles are nuclear bodies built on the long noncoding RNA Neat1, which regulates a variety of physiological processes including cancer progression and corpus luteum formation. To obtain further insight into the molecular basis of the function of paraspeckles, we performed fine structural analyses of these nuclear bodies using structural illumination microscopy. Notably, paraspeckle proteins are found within different layers along the radially arranged bundles of Neat1 transcripts, forming a characteristic core-shell spheroidal structure. In cells lacking the RNA binding protein Fus, paraspeckle spheroids are disassembled into smaller particles containing Neat1, which are diffusely distributed in the nucleoplasm. Sequencing analysis of RNAs purified from paraspeckles revealed that AG-rich transcripts associate with Neat1, which are distributed along the shell of the paraspeckle spheroids. We propose that paraspeckles sequester core components inside the spheroids, whereas the outer surface associates with other components in the nucleoplasm to fulfill their function.
Pluripotent stem cells can be classified into two distinct states, naïve and primed, which show different degrees of potency. One difficulty in stem cell research is the inability to distinguish these states in live cells. Studies on female mice have shown that reactivation of inactive X chromosomes occurs in the naïve state, while one of the X chromosomes is inactivated in the primed state. Therefore, we tried to distinguish the two states by monitoring X chromosome reactivation. Thus far, X chromosome reactivation has been analysed using fixed cells; here, we inserted different fluorescent reporter gene cassettes (mCherry and eGFP) into each X chromosome. Using these knock-in "MOMIJI" mice, we detected X chromosome reactivation accurately in live embryos, and confirmed that the pluripotent states of embryos were stable ex vivo, as represented by embryonic and epiblast stem cells in terms of X chromosome reactivation. Thus, MOMIJI mice provide a simple and accurate method for identifying stem cell status based on X chromosome reactivation.
The mammalian cell nucleus contains membraneless suborganelles referred to as nuclear bodies (NBs). Some NBs are formed with an architectural RNA (arcRNA) as the structural core. Here, we searched for new NBs that are built on unidentified arcRNAs by screening for ribonuclease (RNase)-sensitive NBs using 32,651 fluorescently tagged human cDNA clones. We identified 32 tagged proteins that required RNA for their localization in distinct nuclear foci. Among them, seven RNA-binding proteins commonly localized in the Sam68 nuclear body (SNB), which was disrupted by RNase treatment. Knockdown of each SNB protein revealed that SNBs are composed of two distinct RNase-sensitive substructures. One substructure is present as a distinct NB, termed the DBC1 body, in certain conditions, and the more dynamic substructure including Sam68 joins to form the intact SNB. HNRNPL acts as the adaptor to combine the two substructures and form the intact SNB through the interaction of two sets of RNA recognition motifs with the putative arcRNAs in the respective substructures.
Efficient maturation of transfer RNAs (tRNAs) is required for rapid cell growth. However, the precise timing of tRNA processing in coordination with the order of tRNA modifications has not been thoroughly elucidated. To analyze the modification status of tRNA precursors (pre-tRNAs) during maturation, we isolated pre-tRNAs at various stages from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and subjected them to MS analysis. We detected methylated guanosine cap structures at the 5' termini of pre-tRNAs bearing 5' leader sequences. These capped pre-tRNAs accumulated substantially after inhibition of RNase P activity. Upon depletion of the capping enzyme Ceg1p, the steady state level of capped pre-tRNA was markedly reduced. In addition, a population of capped pre-tRNAs accumulated in strains in which 5' exonucleases were inhibited, indicating that the 5' cap structures protect pre-tRNAs from 5'-exonucleolytic degradation during maturation.
The long noncoding RNA Gomafu/MIAT/Rncr2 is thought to function in retinal cell specification, stem cell differentiation and the control of alternative splicing. To further investigate physiological functions of Gomafu, we created mouse knockout (KO) model that completely lacks the Gomafu gene. The KO mice did not exhibit any developmental deficits. However, behavioral tests revealed that the KO mice are hyperactive. This hyperactive behavior was enhanced when the KO mice were treated with the psychostimulant methamphetamine, which was associated with an increase in dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. RNA sequencing analyses identified a small number of genes affected by the deficiency of Gomafu, a subset of which are known to have important neurobiological functions. These observations suggest that Gomafu modifies mouse behavior thorough a mild modulation of gene expression and/or alternative splicing of target genes.