Insertion of an Alu element in a lncRNA leads to primate-specific modulation of alternative splicing

Noncoding RNAs, mobile elements, and alternative splicing are all critical for the regulation of gene expression. Here researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China show that a conserved noncoding RNA acquires a new function due to the insertion of a mobile element. They identified a noncoding RNA, termed 5S-OT, which is transcribed from 5S rDNA loci in eukaryotes including fission yeast and mammals. 5S-OT plays a cis role in regulating the transcription of 5S rRNA in mice and humans. In the anthropoidea suborder of primates, an antisense Alu element has been inserted at the 5S-OT locus. We found that in human cells, 5S-OT regulates alternative splicing of multiple genes in trans via Alu/anti-Alu pairing with target genes and by interacting with the splicing factor U2AF65. This trans effect of 5S-OT in splicing might be exploited in biotechnological applications.

lncRNA

Model for the evolution of 5S-OT in eukaryotes, its cis function in regulating the transcription of 5S rRNA in mammals, and its trans roles in modulating alternative splicing in humans.

Hu S, Wang X, Shan G. (2016) Insertion of an Alu element in a lncRNA leads to primate-specific modulation of alternative splicing. Nat Struct Mol Biol [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]

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