Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are widely expressed noncoding RNAs. However, their biogenesis and possible functions are poorly understood. Here, by studying circRNAs that we identified in neuronal tissues, we provide evidence that animal circRNAs are generated cotranscriptionally and that their production rate is mainly determined by intronic sequences. We demonstrate that circularization and splicing compete against each other. These mechanisms are tissue specific and conserved in animals. Interestingly, we observed that the second exon of the splicing factor muscleblind (MBL/MBNL1) is circularized in flies and humans. This circRNA (circMbl) and its flanking introns contain conserved muscleblind binding sites, which are strongly and specifically bound by MBL. Modulation of MBL levels strongly affects circMbl biosynthesis, and this effect is dependent on the MBL binding sites. Together, our data suggest that circRNAs can function in gene regulation by competing with linear splicing. Furthermore, we identified muscleblind as a factor involved in circRNA biogenesis.
Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are an endogenous class of animal RNAs. Despite their abundance, their function and expression in the nervous system are unknown. Therefore, we sequenced RNA from different brain regions, primary neurons, isolated synapses, as well as during neuronal differentiation. Using these and other available data, we discovered and analyzed thousands of neuronal human and mouse circRNAs. circRNAs were extraordinarily enriched in the mammalian brain, well conserved in sequence, often expressed as circRNAs in both human and mouse, and sometimes even detected in Drosophila brains. circRNAs were overall upregulated during neuronal differentiation, highly enriched in synapses, and often differentially expressed compared to their mRNA isoforms. circRNA expression correlated negatively with expression of the RNA-editing enzyme ADAR1. Knockdown of ADAR1 induced elevated circRNA expression. Together, we provide a circRNA brain expression atlas and evidence for important circRNA functions and values as biomarkers.
Circular RNAs (circRNAs) constitute a family of transcripts with unique structures and still largely unknown functions. Their biogenesis, which proceeds via a back-splicing reaction, is fairly well characterized, whereas their role in the modulation of physiologically relevant processes is still unclear. Here we performed expression profiling of circRNAs during in vitro differentiation of murine and human myoblasts, and we identified conserved species regulated in myogenesis and altered in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A high-content functional genomic screen allowed the study of their functional role in muscle differentiation. One of them, circ-ZNF609, resulted in specifically controlling myoblast proliferation. Circ-ZNF609 contains an open reading frame spanning from the start codon, in common with the linear transcript, and terminating at an in-frame STOP codon, created upon circularization. Circ-ZNF609 is associated with heavy polysomes, and it is translated into a protein in a splicing-dependent and cap-independent manner, providing an example of a protein-coding circRNA in eukaryotes.
Eukaryotic cells possess numerous dynamic membrane-less organelles, RNP granules, enriched in RNA and RNA-binding proteins containing disordered regions. We demonstrate that the disordered regions of key RNP granule components and the full-length granule protein hnRNPA1 can phase separate in vitro, producing dynamic liquid droplets. Phase separation is promoted by low salt concentrations or RNA. Over time, the droplets mature to more stable states, as assessed by slowed fluorescence recovery after photobleaching and resistance to salt. Maturation often coincides with formation of fibrous structures. Different disordered domains can co-assemble into phase-separated droplets. These biophysical properties demonstrate a plausible mechanism by which interactions between disordered regions, coupled with RNA binding, could contribute to RNP granule assembly in vivo through promoting phase separation. Progression from dynamic liquids to stable fibers may be regulated to produce cellular structures with diverse physiochemical properties and functions. Misregulation could contribute to diseases involving aberrant RNA granules.
Historically, mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mROS) were thought to exclusively cause cellular damage and lack a physiological function. Accumulation of ROS and oxidative damage have been linked to multiple pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, cancer, and premature aging. Thus, mROS were originally envisioned as a necessary evil of oxidative metabolism, a product of an imperfect system. Yet few biological systems possess such flagrant imperfections, thanks to the persistent optimization of evolution, and it appears that oxidative metabolism is no different. More and more evidence suggests that mROS are critical for healthy cell function. In this Review, we discuss this evidence following some background on the generation and regulation of mROS.
Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant and evolutionarily conserved RNAs of largely unknown function. Here, we show that a subset of circRNAs is translated in vivo. By performing ribosome footprinting from fly heads, we demonstrate that a group of circRNAs is associated with translating ribosomes. Many of these ribo-circRNAs use the start codon of the hosting mRNA, are bound by membrane-associated ribosomes, and have evolutionarily conserved termination codons. In addition, we found that a circRNA generated from the muscleblind locus encodes a protein, which we detected in fly head extracts by mass spectrometry. Next, by performing in vivo and in vitro translation assays, we show that UTRs of ribo-circRNAs (cUTRs) allow cap-independent translation. Moreover, we found that starvation and FOXO likely regulate the translation of a circMbl isoform. Altogether, our study provides strong evidence for translation of circRNAs, revealing the existence of an unexplored layer of gene activity.
Long noncoding RNAs (IncRNAs) are an important class of pervasive genes involved in a variety of biological functions. Here we discuss the emerging archetypes of molecular functions that IncRNAs execute as signals, decoys, guides, and scaffolds. For each archetype, examples from several disparate biological contexts illustrate the commonality of the molecular mechanisms, and these mechanistic views provide useful explanations and predictions of biological outcomes. These archetypes of IncRNA function may be a useful framework to consider how IncRNAs acquire properties as biological signal transducers and hint at their possible origins in evolution. As new IncRNAs are being discovered at a rapid pace, the molecular mechanisms of IncRNAs are likely to be enriched and diversified.
Programmed necrotic cell death induced by the tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) family of cytokines is dependent on a kinase cascade consisting of receptor-interacting kinases RIP1 and RIP3. How these kinase activities cause cells to die by necrosis is not known. The mixed lineage kinase domain-like protein MLKL is a functional RIP3 substrate that binds to RIP3 through its kinase-like domain but lacks kinase activity of its own. RIP3 phosphorylates MLKL at the T357 and S358 sites. Reported here is the development of a monoclonal antibody that specifically recognizes phosphorylated MLKL in cells dying of this pathway and in human liver biopsy samples from patients suffering from drug-induced liver injury. The phosphorylated MLKL forms an oligomer that binds to phosphatidylinositol lipids and cardiolipin. This property allows MLKL to move from the cytosol to the plasma and intracellular membranes, where it directly disrupts membrane integrity, resulting in necrotic death.
The ability to measure human aging from molecular profiles has practical implications in many fields, including disease prevention and treatment, forensics, and extension of life. Although chronological age has been linked to changes in DNA methylation, the methylome has not yet been used to measure and compare human aging rates. Here, we build a quantitative model of aging using measurements at more than 450,000 CpG markers from the whole blood of 656 human individuals, aged 19 to 101. This model measures the rate at which an individual's methylome ages, which we show is impacted by gender and genetic variants. We also show that differences in aging rates help explain epigenetic drift and are reflected in the transcriptome. Moreover, we show how our aging model is upheld in other human tissues and reveals an advanced aging rate in tumor tissue. Our model highlights specific components of the aging process and provides a quantitative readout for studying the role of methylation in age-related disease.
Abundantly expressed in fetal tissues and adult muscle, the developmentally regulated H19 long noncoding RNA (IncRNA) has been implicated in human genetic disorders and cancer. However, how H19 acts to regulate gene function has remained enigmatic, despite the recent implication of its encoded miR-675 in limiting placental growth. We noted that vertebrate H19 harbors both canonical and noncanonical binding sites for the let-7 family of microRNAs, which plays important roles in development, cancer, and metabolism. Using H19 knockdown and overexpression, combined with in vivo crosslinking and genome-wide transcriptome analysis, we demonstrate that H19 modulates let-7 availability by acting as a molecular sponge. The physiological significance of this interaction is highlighted in cultures in which H19 depletion causes precocious muscle differentiation, a phenotype recapitulated by let-7 overexpression. Our results reveal an unexpected mode of action of H19 and identify this IncRNA as an important regulator of the major let-7 family of microRNAs.
Microbial CRISPR-Cas systems are divided into Class 1, with multisubunit effector complexes, and Class 2, with single protein effectors. Currently, only two Class 2 effectors, Cas9 and Cpf1, are known. We describe here three distinct Class 2 CRISPR-Cas systems. The effectors of two of the identified systems, C2c1 and C2c3, contain RuvC-like endonuclease domains distantly related to Cpf1. The third system, C2c2, contains an effector with two predicted HEPN RNase domains. Whereas production of mature CRISPR RNA (crRNA) by C2c1 depends on tracrRNA, C2c2 crRNA maturation is tracrRNA independent. We found that C2c1 systems can mediate DNA interference in a 50-PAM-dependent fashion analogous to Cpf1. However, unlike Cpf1, which is a single-RNA-guided nuclease, C2c1 depends on both crRNA and tracrRNA for DNA cleavage. Finally, comparative analysis indicates that Class 2 CRISPR-Cas systems evolved on multiple occasions through recombination of Class 1 adaptation modules with effector proteins acquired from distinct mobile elements.
We describe the identification and characterization of circular intronic long noncoding RNAs in human cells, which accumulate owing to a failure in debranching. The formation of such circular intronic RNAs (ciRNAs) can be recapitulated using expression vectors, and their processing depends on a consensus motif containing a 7 nt GU-rich element near the 50 splice site and an 11 nt C-rich element close to the branchpoint site. In addition, we show that ciRNAs are abundant in the nucleus and have little enrichment for microRNA target sites. Importantly, knockdown of ciRNAs led to the reduced expression of their parent genes. One abundant such RNA, ci-ankrd52, largely accumulates to its sites of transcription, associates with elongation Pol II machinery, and acts as a positive regulator of Pol II transcription. This study thus suggests a cis-regulatory role of noncoding intronic transcripts on their parent coding genes.
The presence of microbial or self DNA in the cytoplasm of mammalian cells is a danger signal detected by the DNA sensor cyclic-GMP-AMP (cGAMP) synthase (cGAS), which catalyzes the production of cGAMP that in turn serves as a second messenger to activate innate immune responses. Here we show that endogenous cGAMP in mammalian cells contains two distinct phosphodiester linkages, one between 2'-OH of GMP and 5'-phosphate of AMP, and the other between 3'-OH of AMP and 5'-phosphate of GMP. This molecule, termed 2'3'-cGAMP, is unique in that it binds to the adaptor protein STING with a much greater affinity than cGAMP molecules containing other combinations of phosphodiester linkages. The crystal structure of STING bound to 2'3'-cGAMP revealed the structural basis of this high-affinity binding and a ligand-induced conformational change in STING that may underlie its activation.
Mitochondria are bioenergetic, biosynthetic, and signaling organelles that are integral in stress sensing to allow for cellular adaptation to the environment. Therefore, it is not surprising that mitochondria are important mediators of tumorigenesis, as this process requires flexibility to adapt to cellular and environmental alterations in addition to cancer treatments. Multiple aspects of mitochondrial biology beyond bioenergetics support transformation, including mitochondrial biogenesis and turnover, fission and fusion dynamics, cell death susceptibility, oxidative stress regulation, metabolism, and signaling. Thus, understanding mechanisms of mitochondrial function during tumorigenesis will be critical for the next generation of cancer therapeutics.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are highly toxic lesions that can drive genetic instability. To preserve gnome integrity, organisms have evolved several DSB repair mechanisms, of which nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination (HR) represent the two most prominent. It has recently become apparent that multiple layers of regulation exist to ensure these repair pathways are accurate and restricted to the appropriate cellular contexts. Such regulation is crucial, as failure to properly execute DSB repair is known to accelerate tumorigenesis and is associated with several human genetic syndromes. Here, we review recent insights into the mechanisms that influence the choice between competing DSB repair pathways, how this is regulated during the cell cycle, and how imbalances in this equilibrium result in genome instability.
Cells chemically isolate molecules in compartments to both facilitate and regulate their interactions. In addition to membrane-encapsulated compartments, cells can form proteinaceous and membraneless organelles, including nucleoli, Cajal and PML bodies, and stress granules. The principles that determine when and why these structures form have remained elusive. Here, we demonstrate that the disordered tails of Ddx4, a primary constituent of nuage or germ granules, form phase-separated organelles both in live cells and in vitro. These bodies are stabilized by patterned electrostatic interactions that are highly sensitive to temperature, ionic strength, arginine methylation, and splicing. Sequence determinants are used to identify proteins found in both membraneless organelles and cell adhesion. Moreover, the bodies provide an alternative solvent environment that can concentrate single-stranded DNA but largely exclude double-stranded DNA. We propose that phase separation of disordered proteins containing weakly interacting blocks is a general mechanism for forming regulated, membraneless organelles.
The regulatory role of N-6-methyladenosine (m(6)A) and its nuclear binding protein YTHDC1 in premRNA splicing remains an enigma. Here we show that YTHDC1 promotes exon inclusion in targeted mRNAs through recruiting pre-mRNA splicing factor SRSF3 (SRp20) while blocking SRSF10 (SRp38) mRNA binding. Transcriptome assay with PARCLIP-seq analysis revealed that YTHDC1-regulated exon-inclusion patterns were similar to those of SRSF3 but opposite of SRSF10. In vitro pull-down assay illustrated a competitive binding of SRSF3 and SRSF10 to YTHDC1. Moreover, YTHDC1 facilitates SRSF3 but represses SRSF10 in their nuclear speckle localization, RNA-binding affinity, and associated splicing events, dysregulation of which, as the result of YTHDC1 depletion, can be restored by reconstitution with wild-type, but not m(6)A-bindingdefective, YTHDC1. Our findings provide the direct evidence that m6A reader YTHDC1 regulates mRNA splicing through recruiting and modulating premRNA splicing factors for their access to the binding regions of targeted mRNAs.
An underlying hallmark of cancers is their genomic instability, which is associated with a greater propensity to accumulate DNA damage. Historical treatment of cancer by radiotherapy and DNA-damaging chemotherapy is based on this principle, yet it is accompanied by significant collateral damage to normal tissue and unwanted side effects. Targeted therapy based on inhibiting the DNA damage response (DDR) in cancers offers the potential for a greater therapeutic window by tailoring treatment to patients with tumors lacking specific DDR functions. The recent approval of olaparib (Lynparza), the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor for treating tumors harboring BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, represents the first medicine based on this principle, exploiting an underlying cause of tumor formation that also represents an Achilles' heel. This review highlights the different concepts behind targeting DDR in cancer and how this can provide significant opportunities for DDR-based therapies in the future.
N-6-methyladenosine (m(6)A) is the most prevalent internal modification of messenger RNA (mRNA) in higher eukaryotes. Here we report ALKBH5 as another mammalian demethylase that oxidatively reverses m(6)A in mRNA in vitro and in vivo. This demethylation activity of ALKBH5 significantly affects mRNA export and RNA metabolism as well as the assembly of mRNA processing factors in nuclear speckles. Alkbh5-deficient male mice have increased m(6)A in mRNA and are characterized by impaired fertility resulting from apoptosis that affects meiotic metaphase-stage spermatocytes. In accordance with this defect, we have identified in mouse testes 1,551 differentially expressed genes that cover broad functional categories and include spermatogenesis-related mRNAs involved in the p53 functional interaction network. The discovery of this RNA demethylase strongly suggests that the reversible m(6)A modification has fundamental and broad functions in mammalian cells.
Selective autophagy ensures recognition and removal of various cytosolic cargos. Hence, aggregated proteins, damaged organelles, or pathogens are enclosed into the double-membrane vesicle, the autophagosome, and delivered to the lysosome for degradation. This process is mediated by selective autophagy receptors, such as p62/SQSTM1. These proteins recognize autophagic cargo and, via binding to small ubiquitin-like modifiers (UBLs)-Atg8/LC3/GABARAPs and ATG5-mediate formation of selective autophagosomes. Recently, it was found that UBLs can directly engage the autophagosome nucleation machinery. Here, we review recent findings on selective autophagy and propose a model for selective autophagosome formation in close proximity to cargo.