Post-transcriptional gene regulation is robustly regulated by RNA-binding proteins (RBPs). Here we describe the collection of RNAs regulated by AUF1 (AU-binding factor 1), an RBP linked to cancer, inflammation and aging. Photoactivatable ribonucleoside-enhanced crosslinking and immunoprecipitation (PAR-CLIP) analysis reveals that AUF1 primarily recognizes U-/GU-rich sequences in mRNAs and noncoding RNAs and influences target transcript fate in three main directions. First, AUF1 lowers the steady-state levels of numerous target RNAs, including long noncoding RNA NEAT1, in turn affecting the organization of nuclear paraspeckles. Second, AUF1 does not change the abundance of many target RNAs, but ribosome profiling reveals that AUF1 promotes the translation of numerous mRNAs in this group. Third, AUF1 unexpectedly enhances the steady-state levels of several target mRNAs encoding DNA-maintenance proteins. Through its actions on target RNAs, AUF1 preserves genomic integrity, in agreement with the AUF1-elicited prevention of premature cellular senescence.
Heterochromatin protein 1? (HP1?), a key player in the establishment and maintenance of higher-order chromatin regulates key cellular processes, including metaphase chromatid cohesion and centromere organization. However, how HP1? controls these processes is not well understood. Here we demonstrate that post-translational modifications of HP1? dictate its mitotic functions. HP1? is constitutively phosphorylated within its amino terminus, whereas phosphorylation within the hinge domain occurs preferentially at G2/M phase of the cell cycle. The hinge-phosphorylated form of HP1? specifically localizes to kinetochores during early mitosis and this phosphorylation mediated by NDR1 kinase is required for mitotic progression and for Sgo1 binding to mitotic centromeres. Cells lacking NDR kinase show loss of mitosis-specific phosphorylation of HP1? leading to prometaphase arrest. Our results reveal that NDR kinase catalyses the hinge-specific phosphorylation of human HP1? during G2/M in vivo and this orchestrates accurate chromosome alignment and mitotic progression.
The mammalian genome harbors thousands of long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) genes. Recent studies have indicated the involvement of several of these lncRNAs in the regulation of gene expression. lncRNAs play crucial roles in various biological processes ranging from epigenetic gene regulation, transcriptional control, to post-transcriptional regulation. lncRNAs are localized in various subcellular compartments, and major proportion of these are retained in the cell nucleus and could be broadly classified as nuclear-retained lncRNAs (nrRNAs). Based on the identified functions, members of the nrRNAs execute diverse roles, including providing architectural support to the hierarchical subnuclear organization and influencing the recruitment of chromatin modifier factors to specific chromatin sites. In this review, we will summarize the recently described roles of mammalian nrRNAs in controlling gene expression by influencing chromatin organization, transcription, pre-mRNA processing, nuclear organization, and their involvement in disease.
The long noncoding MALAT1 RNA is upregulated in cancer tissues and its elevated expression is associated with hyper-proliferation, but the underlying mechanism is poorly understood. We demonstrate that MALAT1 levels are regulated during normal cell cycle progression. Genome-wide transcriptome analyses in normal human diploid fibroblasts reveal that MALAT1 modulates the expression of cell cycle genes and is required for G1/S and mitotic progression. Depletion of MALAT1 leads to activation of p53 and its target genes. The cell cycle defects observed in MALAT1-depleted cells are sensitive to p53 levels, indicating that p53 is a major downstream mediator of MALAT1 activity. Furthermore, MALAT1-depleted cells display reduced expression of B-MYB (Mybl2), an oncogenic transcription factor involved in G2/M progression, due to altered binding of splicing factors on B-MYB pre-mRNA and aberrant alternative splicing. In human cells, MALAT1 promotes cellular proliferation by modulating the expression and/or pre-mRNA processing of cell cycle-regulated transcription factors. These findings provide mechanistic insights on the role of MALAT1 in regulating cellular proliferation.
The mammalian genome harbors a large number of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) that do not code for proteins, but rather they exert their function directly as RNA molecules. LncRNAs are involved in executing several vital cellular functions. They facilitate the recruitment of proteins to specific chromatin sites, ultimately regulating processes like dosage compensation and genome imprinting. LncRNAs are also known to regulate nucleocytoplasmic transport of macromolecules. A large number of the regulatory lncRNAs are retained within the cell nucleus and constitute a subclass termed nuclear-retained RNAs (nrRNAs). NrRNAs are speculated to be involved in crucial gene regulatory networks, acting as structural scaffolds of subnuclear domains. NrRNAs modulate gene expression by influencing chromatin modification, transcription and post-transcriptional gene processing. The cancer-associated Metastasis-associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript1 (MALAT1) is one such long nrRNA that regulates pre-mRNA processing in mammalian cells. Thus far, our understanding about the roles played by nrRNAs and their relevance in disease pathways is only a tip of an iceberg. It will therefore be crucial to unravel the functions for the vast number of long nrRNAs, buried within the complex mine of the human genome.
In eukaryotes, higher order chromatin structure governs crucial cellular processes including DNA replication, transcription and post-transcriptional gene regulation. Specific chromatin-interacting proteins play vital roles in the maintenance of chromatin structure. We have identified BEND3, a quadruple BEN domain-containing protein that is highly conserved amongst vertebrates. BEND3 colocalizes with HP1 and H3 trimethylated at K9 at heterochromatic regions in mammalian cells. Using an in vivo gene locus, we have been able to demonstrate that BEND3 associates with the locus only when it is heterochromatic and dissociates upon activation of transcription. Furthermore, tethering BEND3 inhibits transcription from the locus, indicating that BEND3 is involved in transcriptional repression through its interaction with histone deacetylases and Sall4, a transcription repressor. We further demonstrate that BEND3 is SUMOylated and that such modifications are essential for its role in transcriptional repression. Finally, overexpression of BEND3 causes premature chromatin condensation and extensive heterochromatinization, resulting in cell cycle arrest. Taken together, our data demonstrate the role of a novel heterochromatin-associated protein in transcriptional repression.
X-chromosome inactivation has long served as an experimental model system for understanding the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Central to this phenomenon is the long, non-coding RNA Xist that is specifically expressed from the inactive X chromosome and spreads along the entire length of the chromosome in cis. Recently, two of the proteins originally identified as components of the nuclear scaffold/matrix (S/MAR-associated proteins) have been shown to control the principal features of X-chromosome inactivation; specifically, context-dependent competency and the chromosome-wide association of Xist RNA. These findings implicate the involvement of nuclear S/MAR-associated proteins in the organization of epigenetic machinery. Here, we describe a model for the functional role of S/MAR-associated proteins in the regulation of key epigenetic processes.
In higher eukaryotic cells, long non-protein-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been implicated in a wide array of cellular functions. Cell- or tissue-specific expression of lncRNA genes encoded in the mammalian genome is thought to contribute to the complex gene networks needed to regulate cellular function. Here, we have identified a novel species of polypurine triplet repeat-rich lncRNAs, designated as GAA repeat-containing RNAs (GRC-RNAs), that localize to numerous punctate foci in the mammalian interphase nuclei. GRC-RNAs consist of a heterogeneous population of RNAs, ranging in size from ~1.5 kb to ~4 kb and localize to subnuclear domains, several of which associate with GAA.TTC-repeat-containing genomic regions. GRC-RNAs are components of the nuclear matrix and interact with various nuclear matrix-associated proteins. In mitotic cells, GRC-RNAs form distinct cytoplasmic foci and, in telophase and G1 cells, localize to the midbody, a structure involved in accurate cell division. Differentiation of tissue culture cells leads to a decrease in the number of GRC-RNA nuclear foci, albeit with an increase in size as compared with proliferating cells. Conversely, the number of GRC-RNA foci increases during cellular transformation. We propose that nuclear GRC-RNAs represent a novel family of mammalian lncRNAs that might play crucial roles in the cell nucleus.
Noncoding RNAs play important roles in various aspects of gene regulation. We have identified 7SK RNA to be enriched in nuclear speckles or interchromatin granule clusters (IGCs), a subnuclear domain enriched in pre-mRNA processing factors. 7SK RNA, in association with HEXIM 1 and 2, is involved in the inhibition of transcriptional elongation by RNA polymerase II. Inhibition occurs via sequestration of the active P-TEFb kinase complex (CDK 9 and Cyclin T1/T2a/b or K) that is involved in phosphorylating the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II. Our results demonstrate that knock-down of 7SK RNA, by specific antisense oligonucleotides, results in the mislocalization of nuclear speckle constituents in a transcription-dependent manner, and the transcriptional up-regulation of a RNA polymerase II transcribed reporter gene locus. Furthermore, 7SK RNA transiently associates with a stably integrated reporter gene locus upon transcriptional down-regulation and its presence correlates with the efficient displacement of P-TEFb constituents from the locus. Our results suggest that 7SK RNA plays a role in modulating the available level of P-TEFb upon transcriptional down-regulation by sequestering its constituents in nuclear speckles.
The origin recognition complex (ORC) is a DNA replication initiator protein also known to be involved in diverse cellular functions including gene silencing, sister chromatid cohesion, telomere biology, heterochromatin localization, centromere and centrosome activity, and cytokinesis. We show that, in human cells, multiple ORC subunits associate with hetereochromatin protein 1 (HP1) alpha- and HP1beta-containing heterochromatic foci. Fluorescent bleaching studies indicate that multiple subcomplexes of ORC exist at heterochromatin, with Orc1 stably associating with heterochromatin in G1 phase, whereas other ORC subunits have transient interactions throughout the cell-division cycle. Both Orc1 and Orc3 directly bind to HP1alpha, and two domains of Orc3, a coiled-coil domain and a mod-interacting region domain, can independently bind to HP1alpha; however, both are essential for in vivo localization of Orc3 to heterochromatic foci. Direct binding of both Orc1 and Orc3 to HP1 suggests that, after the degradation of Orc1 at the G1/S boundary, Orc3 facilitates assembly of ORC/HP1 proteins to chromatin. Although depletion of Orc2 and Orc3 subunits by siRNA caused loss of HP1alpha association to heterochromatin, loss of Orc1 and Orc5 caused aberrant HP1alpha distribution only to pericentric heterochromatin-surrounding nucleoli. Depletion of HP1alpha from human cells also shows loss of Orc2 binding to heterochromatin, suggesting that ORC and HP1 proteins are mutually required for each other to bind to heterochromatin. Similar to HP1alpha-depleted cells, Orc2 and Orc3 siRNA-treated cells also show loss of compaction at satellite repeats, suggesting that ORC together with HP1 proteins may be involved in organizing higher-order chromatin structure and centromere function.
A growing number of long nuclear-retained non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have recently been described. However, few functions have been elucidated for these ncRNAs. Here, we have characterized the function of one such ncRNA, identified as metastasis-associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript 1 (Malat1). Malat1 RNA is expressed in numerous tissues and is highly abundant in neurons. It is enriched in nuclear speckles only when RNA polymerase II-dependent transcription is active. Knock-down studies revealed that Malat1 modulates the recruitment of SR family pre-mRNA-splicing factors to the transcription site of a transgene array. DNA microarray analysis in Malat1-depleted neuroblastoma cells indicates that Malat1 controls the expression of genes involved not only in nuclear processes, but also in synapse function. In cultured hippocampal neurons, knock-down of Malat1 decreases synaptic density, whereas its over-expression results in a cell-autonomous increase in synaptic density. Our results suggest that Malat1 regulates synapse formation by modulating the expression of genes involved in synapse formation and/or maintenance.
Alternative splicing (AS) of pre-mRNA is utilized by higher eukaryotes to achieve increased transcriptome and proteomic complexity. The serine/arginine (SR) splicing factors regulate tissue- or cell-type-specific AS in a concentration- and phosphorylation-dependent manner. However, the mechanisms that modulate the cellular levels of active SR proteins remain to be elucidated. In the present study, we provide evidence for a role for the long nuclear-retained regulatory RNA (nrRNA), MALAT1 in AS regulation. MALAT1 interacts with SR proteins and influences the distribution of these and other splicing factors in nuclear speckle domains. Depletion of MALAT1 or overexpression of an SR protein changes the AS of a similar set of endogenous pre-mRNAs. Furthermore, MALAT1 regulates cellular levels of phosphorylated forms of SR proteins. Taken together, our results suggest that MALAT1 regulates AS by modulating the levels of active SR proteins. Our results further highlight the role for an nrRNA in the regulation of gene expression.
Origin recognition complex (ORC) plays critical roles in the initiation of DNA replication and cell-cycle progression. In metazoans, ORC associates with origin DNA during G1 and with heterochromatin in postreplicated cells. However, what regulates the binding of ORC to chromatin is not understood. We have identified a highly conserved, leucine-rich repeats and WD40 repeat domain-containing protein 1 (LRWD1) or ORC-associated (ORCA) in human cells that interacts with ORC and modulates chromatin association of ORC. ORCA colocalizes with ORC and shows similar cell-cycle dynamics. We demonstrate that ORCA efficiently recruits ORC to chromatin. Depletion of ORCA in human primary cells and embryonic stem cells results in loss of ORC association to chromatin, concomitant reduction of MCM binding, and a subsequent accumulation in G1 phase. Our results suggest ORCA-mediated association of ORC to chromatin is critical to initiate preRC assembly in G1 and chromatin organization in post-G1 cells.
The mammalian cell nucleus is compartmentalized into nonmembranous subnuclear domains that regulate key nuclear functions. Nuclear speckles are subnuclear domains that contain pre-mRNA processing factors and noncoding RNAs. Many of the nuclear speckle constituents work in concert to coordinate multiple steps of gene expression, including transcription, pre-mRNA processing and mRNA transport. The mechanism that regulates the formation and maintenance of nuclear speckles in the interphase nucleus is poorly understood. In the present study, we provide evidence for the involvement of nuclear speckle resident proteins and RNA components in the organization of nuclear speckles. SR-family splicing factors and their binding partner, long noncoding metastasis-associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript 1 RNA, can nucleate the assembly of nuclear speckles in the interphase nucleus. Depletion of SRSF1 in human cells compromises the association of splicing factors to nuclear speckles and influences the levels and activity of other SR proteins. Furthermore, on a stably integrated reporter gene locus, we demonstrate the role of SRSF1 in RNA polymerase II-mediated transcription. Our results suggest that SR proteins mediate the assembly of nuclear speckles and regulate gene expression by influencing both transcriptional and posttranscriptional activities within the cell nucleus.
Malat1 is an abundant long, noncoding RNA that localizes to nuclear bodies known as nuclear speckles, which contain a distinct set of pre-mRNA processing factors. Previous studies in cell culture have demonstrated that Malat1 interacts with pre-mRNA splicing factors, including the serine- and arginine-rich (SR) family of proteins, and regulates a variety of biological processes, including cancer cell migration, synapse formation, cell cycle progression, and responses to serum stimulation. To address the physiological function of Malat1 in a living organism, we generated Malat1-knockout (KO) mice using homologous recombination. Unexpectedly, the Malat1-KO mice were viable and fertile, showing no apparent phenotypes. Nuclear speckle markers were also correctly localized in cells that lacked Malat1. However, the cellular levels of another long, noncoding RNA--Neat1--which is an architectural component of nuclear bodies known as paraspeckles, were down-regulated in a particular set of tissues and cells lacking Malat1. We propose that Malat1 is not essential in living mice maintained under normal laboratory conditions and that its function becomes apparent only in specific cell types and under particular conditions.
In eukaryotes, initiation of DNA replication requires the assembly of a multiprotein prereplicative complex (pre-RC) at the origins. We recently reported that a WD repeat-containing protein, origin recognition complex (ORC)-associated (ORCA/LRWD1), plays a crucial role in stabilizing ORC to chromatin. Here, we find that ORCA is required for the G(1)-to-S-phase transition in human cells. In addition to binding to ORC, ORCA associates with Cdt1 and its inhibitor, geminin. Single-molecule pulldown experiments demonstrate that each molecule of ORCA can bind to one molecule of ORC, one molecule of Cdt1, and two molecules of geminin. Further, ORCA directly interacts with the N terminus of Orc2, and the stability of ORCA is dependent on its association with Orc2. ORCA associates with Orc2 throughout the cell cycle, with Cdt1 during mitosis and G(1), and with geminin in post-G(1) cells. Overexpression of geminin results in the loss of interaction between ORCA and Cdt1, suggesting that increased levels of geminin in post-G(1) cells titrate Cdt1 away from ORCA. We propose that the dynamic association of ORCA with pre-RC components modulates the assembly of its interacting partners on chromatin and facilitates DNA replication initiation.
In this issue of Molecular Cell, Audas et al. (2012) demonstrate that a class of stress-induced noncoding RNAs immobilizes proteins in the nucleolus in response to a specific stimulus.
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