RNA contains more than 100 distinct modifications that promote the functions of stable noncoding RNAs in translation and splicing. Recent technical advances have revealed widespread and sparse modification of messenger RNAs with N-6-methyladenosine (m(6)A), 5-methylcytosine (m(5)C), and pseudouridine (psi). Here we discuss the rapidly evolving understanding of the location, regulation, and function of these dynamic mRNA marks, collectively termed the epitranscriptome. We highlight differences among modifications and between species that could instruct ongoing efforts to understand how specific mRNA target sites are selected and how their modification is regulated. Diverse molecular consequences of individual m(6)A modifications are beginning to be revealed, but the effects of m(5)C and psi remain largely unknown. Future work linking molecular effects to organismal phenotypes will broaden our understanding of mRNA modifications as cell and developmental regulators.
Cyclic di-guanosine monophosphate (di-GMP) is a circular RNA dinucleotide that functions as a second messenger in diverse species of bacteria to trigger wide-ranging physiological changes, including cell differentiation, conversion between motile and biofilm lifestyles, and virulence gene expression. However, the mechanisms by which cyclic di-GMP regulates gene expression have remained a mystery. We found that cyclic di-GMP in many bacterial species is sensed by a riboswitch class in messenger RNA that controls the expression of genes involved in numerous fundamental cellular processes. A variety of cyclic di-GMP regulons are revealed, including some riboswitches associated with virulence gene expression, pilus formation, and flagellum biosynthesis. In addition, sequences matching the consensus for cyclic di-GMP riboswitches are present in the genome of a bacteriophage.
RNA helicases of the DEAD box family are present in all eukaryotic cells and in many bacteria and Archaea. These highly conserved enzymes are required for RNA metabolism from transcription to degradation and are therefore important players in gene expression. DEAD box proteins use ATP to unwind short duplex RNA in an unusual fashion and remodel RNA-protein complexes, but they can also function as ATP-dependent RNA clamps to provide nucleation centres that establish larger RNA-protein complexes. Structural, mechanistic and molecular biological studies have started to reveal how these conserved proteins can perform such diverse functions and how accessory proteins have a central role in their regulation.
FUS/TLS (fused in sarcoma/translocated in liposarcoma) and TDP-43 are integrally involved in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia. We found that FUS/TLS binds to RNAs from >5,500 genes in mouse and human brain, primarily through a GUGGU-binding motif. We identified a sawtooth-like binding pattern, consistent with co-transcriptional deposition of FUS/TLS. Depletion of FUS/TLS from the adult nervous system altered the levels or splicing of >950 mRNAs, most of which are distinct from RNAs dependent on TDP-43. Abundance of only 45 RNAs was reduced after depletion of either TDP-43 or FUS/TLS from mouse brain, but among these were mRNAs that were transcribed from genes with exceptionally long introns and that encode proteins that are essential for neuronal integrity. Expression levels of a subset of these were lowered after TDP-43 or FUS/TLS depletion in stem cell derived human neurons and in TDP-43 aggregate containing motor neurons in sporadic ALS, supporting a common loss-of-function pathway as one component underlying motor neuron death from misregulation of TDP-43 or FUS/TLS.
The long- standing assumption that messenger RNA ( mRNA) degradation in Escherichia coli begins with endonucleolytic cleavage has been challenged by the recent discovery that RNA decay can be triggered by a prior non- nucleolytic event that marks transcripts for rapid turnover: the rate- determining conversion of the 5' terminus from a triphosphate to a monophosphate(1). This modification creates better substrates for the endonuclease RNase E, whose cleavage activity at internal sites is greatly enhanced when the RNA 5' end is monophosphorylated(2,3). Moreover, it suggests an explanation for the influence of 5' termini on the endonucleolytic cleavage of primary transcripts, which are triphosphorylated(4-) (8). However, no enzyme capable of removing pyrophosphate from RNA 5' ends has been identified in any bacterial species. Here we show that the E. coli protein RppH ( formerly NudH/Y gdP) is the RNA pyrophosphohydrolase that initiates mRNA decay by this 5'- end- dependent pathway. In vitro, RppH efficiently removes pyrophosphate from the 5' end of triphosphorylated RNA, irrespective of the identity of the 5'- terminal nucleotide. In vivo, it accelerates the degradation of hundreds of E. coli transcripts by converting their triphosphorylated 5' ends to a more labile mono-phosphorylated state that can stimulate subsequent ribonuclease cleavage. That the action of the pyrophosphohydrolase is impeded when the 5' end is structurally sequestered by a stem- loop helps to explain the stabilizing influence of 5'- terminal base pairing on mRNA lifetimes. Together, these findings suggest a possible basis for the effect of RppH and its orthologues on the invasiveness of bacterial pathogens. Interestingly, this master regulator of 5'- end-dependent mRNA degradation in E. coli not only catalyses a process functionally reminiscent of eukaryotic mRNA decapping but also bears an evolutionary relationship to the eukaryotic decapping enzyme Dcp2.
A major pathway of eukaryotic messenger RNA (mRNA) turnover begins with deadenylation, followed by decapping and 5' to 3' exonucleolytic decay. We provide evidence that mRNA decapping and 5' to 3' degradation occur in discrete cytoplasmic foci in yeast, which we call processing bodies (P bodies). First proteins that activate or catalyze decapping are concentrated in P bodies. Second, inhibiting mRNA turnover before decapping leads to loss of P bodies; however, inhibiting turnover at, or after, decapping, increases the abundance and size of P bodies. Finally, mRNA degradation intermediates are localized to P bodies. These results define the flux of mRNAs between polysomes and P bodies as a critical aspect of cytoplasmic mRNA metabolism and a possible site for regulation of mRNA degradation.
Crystal structures of the 30S ribosomal subunit in complex with messenger RNA and cognate transfer RNA in the A site, both in the presence and absence of the antibiotic paromomycin, have been solved at between 3.1 and 3.3 angstroms resolution. Cognate transfer RNA (tRNA) binding induces global domain movements of the 30S subunit and changes in the conformation of the universally conserved and essential bases A1492, A1493, and G530 of 16S RNA. These bases interact intimately with the minor groove of the first two base pairs between the codon and anticodon, thus sensing Watson-Crick base-pairing geometry and discriminating against near-cognate tRNA. The third, or "wobble," position of the codon is free to accommodate certain noncanonical base pairs. By partially inducing these structural changes, paromomycin facilitates binding of near-cognate tRNAs.
N⁶-Methyladenosine is a ubiquitous modification identified in the mRNA of numerous eukaryotes, where it is present within both coding and noncoding regions. However, this base modification does not alter the coding capacity, and its biological significance remains unclear. We show that Arabidopsis thaliana mRNA contains N⁶-methyladenosine at levels similar to those previously reported for animal cells. We further show that inactivation of the Arabidopsis ortholog of the yeast and human mRNA adenosine methylase (MTA) results in failure of the developing embryo to progress past the globular stage. We also demonstrate that the arrested seeds are deficient in mRNAs containing N⁶-methyladenosine. Expression of MTA is strongly associated with dividing tissues, particularly reproductive organs, shoot meristems, and emerging lateral roots. Finally, we show that MTA interacts in vitro and in vivo with At FIP37, a homolog of the Drosophila protein FEMALE LETHAL2D and of human WILMS' TUMOUR1-ASSOCIATING PROTEIN. The results reported here provide direct evidence for an essential function for N⁶-methyladenosine in a multicellular eukaryote, and the interaction with At FIP37 suggests possible RNA processing events that might be regulated or altered by this base modification.
Recent advances in next-generation DNA sequencing and proteomics provide an unprecedented ability to survey mRNA and protein abundances. Such proteome-wide surveys are illuminating the extent to which different aspects of gene expression help to regulate cellular protein abundances. Current data demonstrate a substantial role for regulatory processes occurring after mRNA is made - that is, post-transcriptional, translational and protein degradation regulation - in controlling steady-state protein abundances. Intriguing observations are also emerging in relation to cells following perturbation, single-cell studies and the apparent evolutionary conservation of protein and mRNA abundances. Here, we summarize current understanding of the major factors regulating protein expression.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs that control gene expression through silencing of target mRNAs. Mature miRNAs are processed from primary miRNA transcripts by the endonuclease activity of the DICER-LIKE1 (DCL1) protein complex. Mechanisms exist that allow the DCL1 complex to precisely excise the miRNA from its precursor. Our understanding of miRNA biogenesis, particularly its intersection with transcription and other aspects of RNA metabolism such as splicing, is still evolving. Mature miRNAs are incorporated into an ARGONAUTE (AGO) effector complex competent for target gene silencing but are also subjected to turnover through a degradation mechanism that is beginning to be understood. The mechanisms of miRNA target silencing in plants are no longer limited to AGO-catalyzed slicing, and the contribution of translational inhibition is increasingly appreciated. Here, we review the mechanisms underlying the biogenesis, turnover, and activities of plant miRNAs.