Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are widely expressed in animal cells, but their biogenesis and functions are poorly understood. CircRNAs have been shown to act as sponges for miRNAs and may also potentially sponge RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) and are thus predicted to function as robust posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression. The joint analysis of large-scale transcriptome data coupled with computational analyses represents a powerful approach to elucidate possible biological roles of ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. Here, we present a new web tool, CircInteractome (circRNA interactome), for mapping RBP- and miRNA-binding sites on human circRNAs. CircInteractome searches public circRNA, miRNA, and RBP databases to provide bioinformatic analyses of binding sites on circRNAs and additionally analyzes miRNA and RBP sites on junction and junction-flanking sequences. CircInteractome also allows the user the ability to (1) identify potential circRNAs which can act as RBP sponges, (2) design junction-spanning primers for specific detection of circRNAs of interest, (3) design siRNAs for circRNA silencing, and (4) identify potential internal ribosomal entry sites (IRES). In sum, the web tool CircInteractome, freely accessible at http://circinteractome.nia.nih.gov, facilitates the analysis of circRNAs and circRNP biology.
HuR influences gene expression programs and hence cellular phenotypes by binding to hundreds of coding and noncoding linear RNAs. However, whether HuR binds to circular RNAs (circRNAs) and impacts on their function is unknown. Here, we have identified en masse circRNAs binding HuR in human cervical carcinoma HeLa cells. One of the most prominent HuR target circRNAs was hsa_circ_0031288, renamed CircPABPN1 as it arises from the PABPN1 pre-mRNA. Further analysis revealed that HuR did not influence CircPABPN1 abundance; interestingly, however, high levels of CircPABPN1 suppressed HuR binding to PABPN1 mRNA. Evaluation of PABPN1 mRNA polysomes indicated that PABPN1 translation was modulated positively by HuR and hence negatively by CircPABPN1. We propose that the extensive binding of CircPABPN1 to HuR prevents HuR binding to PABPN1 mRNA and lowers PABPN1 translation, providing the first example of competition between a circRNA and its cognate mRNA for an RBP that affects translation.
Some mitochondrial long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are encoded by nuclear DNA, but the mechanisms that mediate their transport to mitochondria are poorly characterized. Using affinity RNA pull-down followed by mass spectrometry analysis, we found two RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), HuR (human antigen R) and GRSF1 (G-rich RNA sequence-binding factor 1), that associated with the nuclear DNA-encoded lncRNA RMRP and mobilized it to mitochondria. In cultured human cells, HuR bound RMRP in the nucleus and mediated its CRM1 (chromosome region maintenance 1)-dependent export to the cytosol. After RMRP was imported into mitochondria, GRSF1 bound RMRP and increased its abundance in the matrix. Loss of GRSF1 lowered the mitochondrial levels of RMRP, in turn suppressing oxygen consumption rates and modestly reducing mitochondrial DNA replication priming. Our findings indicate that RBPs HuR and GRSF1 govern the cytoplasmic and mitochondrial localization of the lncRNA RMRP, which is encoded by nuclear DNA but has key functions in mitochondria.
Using RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq), we compared the expression patterns of circular RNAs in proliferating (early-passage) and senescent (late-passage) human diploid WI-38 fibroblasts. Among the differentially expressed senescence-associated circRNAs (which we termed ‘SAC-RNAs’), we identified CircPVT1, generated by circularization of an exon of the PVT1 gene, as a circular RNA showing markedly reduced levels in senescent fibroblasts. Reducing CircPVT1 levels in proliferating fibroblasts triggered senescence, as determined by a rise in senescence-associated β-galactosidase activity, higher abundance of CDKN1A/P21 and TP53, and reduced cell proliferation. Although several microRNAs were predicted to bind CircPVT1, only let-7 was found enriched after pulldown of endogenous CircPVT1, suggesting that CircPVT1 might selectively modulate let-7 activity and hence expression of let-7-regulated mRNAs. Reporter analysis revealed that CircPVT1 decreased the cellular pool of available let-7, and antagonizing endogenous let-7 triggered cell proliferation. Importantly, silencing CircPVT1 promoted cell senescence and reversed the proliferative phenotype observed after let-7 function was impaired. Consequently, the levels of several proliferative proteins that prevent senescence, such as IGF2BP1, KRAS and HMGA2, encoded by let-7 target mRNAs, were reduced by silencing CircPVT1. Our findings indicate that the SAC-RNA CircPVT1, elevated in dividing cells and reduced in senescent cells, sequesters let-7 to enable a proliferative phenotype.
Non-coding RNAs include small transcripts, such as microRNAs and piwi-interacting RNAs, and a wide range of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). Although many lncRNAs have been identified, only a small number of lncRNAs have been characterized functionally. Here, we sought to identify lncRNAs differentially expressed during replicative senescence. We compared lncRNAs expressed in proliferating, early passage, ‘young’ human diploid WI-38 fibroblasts [population doubling (PDL) 20] with those expressed in senescent, late-passage, ‘old’ fibroblasts (PDL 52) by RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq). Numerous transcripts in all lncRNA groups (antisense lncRNAs, pseudogene-encoded lncRNAs, previously described lncRNAs and novel lncRNAs) were validated using reverse transcription (RT) and real-time, quantitative (q)PCR. Among the novel senescence-associated lncRNAs (SAL-RNAs) showing lower abundance in senescent cells, SAL-RNA1 (XLOC_023166) was found to delay senescence, since reducing SAL-RNA1 levels enhanced the appearance of phenotypic traits of senescence, including an enlarged morphology, positive β-galactosidase activity, and heightened p53 levels. Our results reveal that the expression of known and novel lncRNAs changes with senescence and suggest that SAL-RNAs play direct regulatory roles in this important cellular process.
High-throughput RNA sequencing methods coupled with specialized bioinformatic analyses have recently uncovered tens of thousands of unique circular (circ)RNAs, but their complete sequences, genes of origin and functions are largely unknown. Given that circRNAs lack free ends and are thus relatively stable, their association with microRNAs (miRNAs) and RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) can influence gene expression programs. While exoribonuclease treatment is widely used to degrade linear RNAs and enrich circRNAs in RNA samples, it does not efficiently eliminate all linear RNAs. Here, we describe a novel method for the isolation of highly pure circRNA populations involving RNase R treatment followed by Polyadenylation and poly(A)+ RNA Depletion (RPAD), which removes linear RNA to near completion. High-throughput sequencing of RNA prepared using RPAD from human cervical carcinoma HeLa cells and mouse C2C12 myoblasts led to two surprising discoveries: (i) many exonic circRNA (EcircRNA) isoforms share an identical backsplice sequence but have different body sizes and sequences, and (ii) thousands of novel intronic circular RNAs (IcircRNAs) are expressed in cells. In sum, isolating high-purity circRNAs using the RPAD method can enable quantitative and qualitative analyses of circRNA types and sequence composition, paving the way for the elucidation of circRNA functions.
During aging, progressive deleterious changes increase the risk of disease and death. Prominent molecular hallmarks of aging are genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, loss of proteostasis, cellular senescence, stem cell exhaustion, and altered intercellular communication. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) play important roles in a wide range of biological processes, including age-related diseases like cancer, cardiovascular pathologies, and neurodegenerative disorders. Evidence is emerging that lncRNAs influence the molecular processes that underlie age-associated phenotypes. Here, we review our current understanding of lncRNAs that control the development of aging traits.
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