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Concept: Messenger RNA


Background The senses of touch and proprioception evoke a range of perceptions and rely on the ability to detect and transduce mechanical force. The molecular and neural mechanisms underlying these sensory functions remain poorly defined. The stretch-gated ion channel PIEZO2 has been shown to be essential for aspects of mechanosensation in model organisms. Methods We performed whole-exome sequencing analysis in two patients who had unique neuromuscular and skeletal symptoms, including progressive scoliosis, that did not conform to standard diagnostic classification. In vitro and messenger RNA assays, functional brain imaging, and psychophysical and kinematic tests were used to establish the effect of the genetic variants on protein function and somatosensation. Results Each patient carried compound-inactivating variants in PIEZO2, and each had a selective loss of discriminative touch perception but nevertheless responded to specific types of gentle mechanical stimulation on hairy skin. The patients had profoundly decreased proprioception leading to ataxia and dysmetria that were markedly worse in the absence of visual cues. However, they had the ability to perform a range of tasks, such as walking, talking, and writing, that are considered to rely heavily on proprioception. Conclusions Our results show that PIEZO2 is a determinant of mechanosensation in humans. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program.).

Concepts: Protein, Messenger RNA, Action potential, Perception, Sensory system, Sense, Somatosensory system, Proprioception


Eukaryotes have two types of spliceosomes, comprised of either major (U1, U2, U4, U5, U6) or minor (U11, U12, U4atac, U6atac; <1%) snRNPs. The high conservation of minor introns, typically one amidst many major introns in several hundred genes, despite their poor splicing, has been a long-standing enigma. Here, we discovered that the low abundance minor spliceosome's catalytic snRNP, U6atac, is strikingly unstable (t½<2 hr). We show that U6atac level depends on both RNA polymerases II and III and can be rapidly increased by cell stress-activated kinase p38MAPK, which stabilizes it, enhancing mRNA expression of hundreds of minor intron-containing genes that are otherwise suppressed by limiting U6atac. Furthermore, p38MAPK-dependent U6atac modulation can control minor intron-containing tumor suppressor PTEN expression and cytokine production. We propose that minor introns are embedded molecular switches regulated by U6atac abundance, providing a novel post-transcriptional gene expression mechanism and a rationale for the minor spliceosome's evolutionary conservation. DOI:

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, RNA, Messenger RNA, Spliceosome, RNA splicing


RNA-seq is a powerful tool for the study of alternative splicing and other forms of alternative isoform expression. Understanding the regulation of these processes requires sensitive and specific detection of differential isoform abundance in comparisons between conditions, cell types, or tissues. We present DEXSeq, a statistical method to test for differential exon usage in RNA-seq data. DEXSeq uses generalized linear models and offers reliable control of false discoveries by taking biological variation into account. DEXSeq detects with high sensitivity genes, and in many cases exons, that are subject to differential exon usage. We demonstrate the versatility of DEXSeq by applying it to several data sets. The method facilitates the study of regulation and function of alternative exon usage on a genome-wide scale. An implementation of DEXSeq is available as an R/Bioconductor package.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Statistics, Messenger RNA, Intron, Spliceosome, RNA splicing, Alternative splicing


Purely in vitro ribosome synthesis could provide a critical step towards unraveling the systems biology of ribosome biogenesis, constructing minimal cells from defined components, and engineering ribosomes with new functions. Here, as an initial step towards this goal, we report a method for constructing Escherichia coli ribosomes in crude S150 E. coli extracts. While conventional methods for E. coli ribosome reconstitution are non-physiological, our approach attempts to mimic chemical conditions in the cytoplasm, thus permitting several biological processes to occur simultaneously. Specifically, our integrated synthesis, assembly, and translation (iSAT) technology enables one-step co-activation of rRNA transcription, assembly of transcribed rRNA with native ribosomal proteins into functional ribosomes, and synthesis of active protein by these ribosomes in the same compartment. We show that iSAT makes possible the in vitro construction of modified ribosomes by introducing a 23S rRNA mutation that mediates resistance against clindamycin. We anticipate that iSAT will aid studies of ribosome assembly and open new avenues for making ribosomes with altered properties.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, RNA, Ribosomal RNA, Ribosome, Messenger RNA, Protein biosynthesis, Translation


Decoding post-transcriptional regulatory programs in RNA is a critical step towards the larger goal of developing predictive dynamical models of cellular behaviour. Despite recent efforts, the vast landscape of RNA regulatory elements remains largely uncharacterized. A long-standing obstacle is the contribution of local RNA secondary structure to the definition of interaction partners in a variety of regulatory contexts, including–but not limited to–transcript stability, alternative splicing and localization. There are many documented instances where the presence of a structural regulatory element dictates alternative splicing patterns (for example, human cardiac troponin T) or affects other aspects of RNA biology. Thus, a full characterization of post-transcriptional regulatory programs requires capturing information provided by both local secondary structures and the underlying sequence. Here we present a computational framework based on context-free grammars and mutual information that systematically explores the immense space of small structural elements and reveals motifs that are significantly informative of genome-wide measurements of RNA behaviour. By applying this framework to genome-wide human mRNA stability data, we reveal eight highly significant elements with substantial structural information, for the strongest of which we show a major role in global mRNA regulation. Through biochemistry, mass spectrometry and in vivo binding studies, we identified human HNRPA2B1 (heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A2/B1, also known as HNRNPA2B1) as the key regulator that binds this element and stabilizes a large number of its target genes. We created a global post-transcriptional regulatory map based on the identity of the discovered linear and structural cis-regulatory elements, their regulatory interactions and their target pathways. This approach could also be used to reveal the structural elements that modulate other aspects of RNA behaviour.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, RNA, Secondary structure, Messenger RNA, Intron, RNA splicing, Cis-regulatory element


The first broad-spectrum antibiotic chloramphenicol and one of the newest clinically important antibacterials, linezolid, inhibit protein synthesis by targeting the peptidyl transferase center of the bacterial ribosome. Because antibiotic binding should prevent the placement of aminoacyl-tRNA in the catalytic site, it is commonly assumed that these drugs are universal inhibitors of peptidyl transfer and should readily block the formation of every peptide bond. However, our in vitro experiments showed that chloramphenicol and linezolid stall ribosomes at specific mRNA locations. Treatment of bacterial cells with high concentrations of these antibiotics leads to preferential arrest of translation at defined sites, resulting in redistribution of the ribosomes on mRNA. Antibiotic-mediated inhibition of protein synthesis is most efficient when the nascent peptide in the ribosome carries an alanine residue and, to a lesser extent, serine or threonine in its penultimate position. In contrast, the inhibitory action of the drugs is counteracted by glycine when it is either at the nascent-chain C terminus or at the incoming aminoacyl-tRNA. The context-specific action of chloramphenicol illuminates the operation of the mechanism of inducible resistance that relies on programmed drug-induced translation arrest. In addition, our findings expose the functional interplay between the nascent chain and the peptidyl transferase center.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Amino acid, Ribosome, Messenger RNA, Protein biosynthesis, Chloramphenicol, Peptidyl transferase


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs that regulate various biological processes, primarily through interaction with messenger RNAs. The levels of specific, circulating miRNAs in blood have been shown to associate with various pathological conditions including cancers. These miRNAs have great potential as biomarkers for various pathophysiological conditions. In this study we focused on different sample types' effects on the spectrum of circulating miRNA in blood. Using serum and corresponding plasma samples from the same individuals, we observed higher miRNA concentrations in serum samples compared to the corresponding plasma samples. The difference between serum and plasma miRNA concentration showed some associations with miRNA from platelets, which may indicate that the coagulation process may affect the spectrum of extracellular miRNA in blood. Several miRNAs also showed platform dependent variations in measurements. Our results suggest that there are a number of factors that might affect the measurement of circulating miRNA concentration. Caution must be taken when comparing miRNA data generated from different sample types or measurement platforms.

Concepts: Gene, Blood, RNA, MicroRNA, Coagulation, Messenger RNA, Platelet, Antagomir


Deep sequencing now provides detailed snapshots of ribosome occupancy on mRNAs. We leverage these data to parameterize a computational model of translation, keeping track of every ribosome, tRNA, and mRNA molecule in a yeast cell. We determine the parameter regimes in which fast initiation or high codon bias in a transgene increases protein yield and infer the initiation rates of endogenous Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes, which vary by several orders of magnitude and correlate with 5' mRNA folding energies. Our model recapitulates the previously reported 5'-to-3' ramp of decreasing ribosome densities, although our analysis shows that this ramp is caused by rapid initiation of short genes rather than slow codons at the start of transcripts. We conclude that protein production in healthy yeast cells is typically limited by the availability of free ribosomes, whereas protein production under periods of stress can sometimes be rescued by reducing initiation or elongation rates.

Concepts: Protein, Cell nucleus, RNA, Ribosome, Yeast, Messenger RNA, Protein biosynthesis, Genetic code


BACKGROUND: Introduction of a transgene that transcribes RNA homologous to an endogenous gene in the plant genome can induce silencing of both genes, a phenomenon termed cosuppression. Cosuppression was first discovered in transgenic petunia plants transformed with the CHS-A gene encoding chalcone synthase, in which nonpigmented sectors in flowers or completely white flowers are produced. Some of the flower-color patterns observed in transgenic petunias having CHS-A cosuppression resemble those in existing nontransgenic varieties. Although the mechanism by which white sectors are generated in nontransgenic petunia is known to be due to RNA silencing of the CHS-A gene as in cosuppression, whether the same trigger(s) and/or pattern of RNA degradation are involved in these phenomena has not been known. Here, we addressed this question using deep-sequencing and bioinformatic analyses of small RNAs. RESULTS: We analyzed short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) produced in nonpigmented sectors of petal tissues in transgenic petunia plants that have CHS-A cosuppression and a nontransgenic petunia variety Red Star, that has naturally occurring CHS-A RNA silencing. In both silencing systems, 21-nt and 22-nt siRNAs were the most and the second-most abundant size classes, respectively. CHS-A siRNA production was confined to exon 2, indicating that RNA degradation through the RNA silencing pathway occurred in this exon. Common siRNAs were detected in cosuppression and naturally occurring RNA silencing, and their ranks based on the number of siRNAs in these plants were correlated with each other. Noticeably, highly abundant siRNAs were common in these systems. Phased siRNAs were detected in multiple phases at multiple sites, and some of the ends of the regions that produced phased siRNAs were conserved. CONCLUSIONS: The features of siRNA production found to be common to cosuppression and naturally occurring silencing of the CHS-A gene indicate mechanistic similarities between these silencing systems especially in the biosynthetic processes of siRNAs including cleavage of CHS-A transcripts and subsequent production of secondary siRNAs in exon 2. The data also suggest that these events occurred at multiple sites, which can be a feature of these silencing phenomena.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Molecular biology, RNA, Messenger RNA, Small interfering RNA, RNA interference


We expanded the knowledge base for Drosophila cell line transcriptomes by deeply sequencing their small RNAs. In total, we analyzed more than 1 billion raw reads from 53 libraries across 25 cell lines. We verify reproducibility of biological replicate data sets, determine common and distinct aspects of miRNA expression across cell lines, and infer the global impact of miRNAs on cell line transcriptomes. We next characterize their commonalities and differences in endo-siRNA populations. Interestingly, most cell lines exhibit enhanced TE-siRNA production relative to tissues, suggesting this as a common aspect of cell immortalization. We also broadly extend annotations of cis-NAT-siRNA loci, identifying ones with common expression across diverse cells and tissues, as well as cell-restricted loci. Finally, we characterize small RNAs in a set of ovary-derived cell lines, including somatic cells (OSS and OSC) and a mixed germline/somatic cell population (fGS/OSS) that exhibits ping-pong piRNA signatures. Collectively, the ovary data reveal new genic piRNA loci, including unusual configurations of piRNA-generating regions. Together with the companion analysis of mRNAs described in a previous study, these small RNA data provide comprehensive information on the transcriptional landscape of diverse Drosophila cell lines. These data should encourage broader usage of fly cell lines, beyond the few that are presently in common usage.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, RNA, Cell biology, Messenger RNA, Small interfering RNA