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Genes & Development

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Genes & Development

Eukaryotic cells produce several classes of long and small noncoding RNA (ncRNA). Many DNA and RNA viruses synthesize their own ncRNAs. Like their host counterparts, viral ncRNAs associate with proteins that are essential for their stability, function, or both. Diverse biological roles—including the regulation of viral replication, viral persistence, host immune evasion, and cellular transformation—have been ascribed to viral ncRNAs. In this review, we focus on the multitude of functions played by ncRNAs produced by animal viruses. We also discuss their biogenesis and mechanisms of action.


Epigenetic states defined by chromatin can be maintained through mitotic cell division. However, it remains unknown how histone-based information is transmitted. Here we combine nascent chromatin capture (NCC) and triple-SILAC (stable isotope labeling with amino acids in cell culture) labeling to track histone modifications and histone variants during DNA replication and across the cell cycle. We show that post-translational modifications (PTMs) are transmitted with parental histones to newly replicated DNA. Di- and trimethylation marks are diluted twofold upon DNA replication, as a consequence of new histone deposition. Importantly, within one cell cycle, all PTMs are restored. In general, new histones are modified to mirror the parental histones. However, H3K9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) and H3K27me3 are propagated by continuous modification of parental and new histones because the establishment of these marks extends over several cell generations. Together, our results reveal how histone marks propagate and demonstrate that chromatin states oscillate within the cell cycle.


ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes alter chromatin structure through interactions with chromatin substrates such as DNA, histones, and nucleosomes. However, whether chromatin remodeling complexes have the ability to regulate nonchromatin substrates remains unclear. Saccharomyces cerevisiae checkpoint kinase Mec1 (ATR in mammals) is an essential master regulator of genomic integrity. Here we found that the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex is capable of regulating Mec1 kinase activity. In vivo, Mec1 activity is reduced by the deletion of Snf2, the core ATPase subunit of the SWI/SNF complex. SWI/SNF interacts with Mec1, and cross-linking studies revealed that the Snf2 ATPase is the main interaction partner for Mec1. In vitro, SWI/SNF can activate Mec1 kinase activity in the absence of chromatin or known activators such as Dpb11. The subunit requirement of SWI/SNF-mediated Mec1 regulation differs from that of SWI/SNF-mediated chromatin remodeling. Functionally, SWI/SNF-mediated Mec1 regulation specifically occurs in S phase of the cell cycle. Together, these findings identify a novel regulator of Mec1 kinase activity and suggest that ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes can regulate nonchromatin substrates such as a checkpoint kinase.


Basic helix–loop–helix (bHLH) transcription factors recognize the canonical E-box (CANNTG) to regulate gene transcription; however, given the prevalence of E-boxes in a genome, it has been puzzling how individual bHLH proteins selectively recognize E-box sequences on their targets. TWIST is a bHLH transcription factor that promotes epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) during development and tumor metastasis. High-resolution mapping of TWIST occupancy in human and Drosophila genomes reveals that TWIST, but not other bHLH proteins, recognizes a unique double E-box motif with two E-boxes spaced preferentially by 5 nucleotides. Using molecular modeling and binding kinetic analyses, we found that the strict spatial configuration in the double E-box motif aligns two TWIST–E47 dimers on the same face of DNA, thus providing a high-affinity site for a highly stable intramolecular tetramer. Biochemical analyses showed that the WR domain of TWIST dimerizes to mediate tetramer formation, which is functionally required for TWIST-induced EMT. These results uncover a novel mechanism for a bHLH transcription factor to recognize a unique spatial configuration of E-boxes to achieve target specificity. The WR–WR domain interaction uncovered here sets an example of target gene specificity of a bHLH protein being controlled allosterically by a domain outside of the bHLH region.


Piwi–piRNA (Piwi-interacting RNA) ribonucleoproteins (piRNPs) enforce retrotransposon silencing, a function critical for preserving the genome integrity of germ cells. The molecular functions of most of the factors that have been genetically implicated in primary piRNA biogenesis are still elusive. Here we show that MOV10L1 exhibits 5'-to-3' directional RNA-unwinding activity in vitro and that a point mutation that abolishes this activity causes a failure in primary piRNA biogenesis in vivo. We demonstrate that MOV10L1 selectively binds piRNA precursor transcripts and is essential for the generation of intermediate piRNA processing fragments that are subsequently loaded to Piwi proteins. Multiple analyses suggest an intimate coupling of piRNA precursor processing with elements of local secondary structures such as G quadruplexes. Our results support a model in which MOV10L1 RNA helicase activity promotes unwinding and funneling of the single-stranded piRNA precursor transcripts to the endonuclease that catalyzes the first cleavage step of piRNA processing.


In many cells, mRNAs containing inverted repeated Alu elements (IRAlus) in their 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) are inefficiently exported to the cytoplasm. Such nuclear retention correlates with paraspeckle-associated protein complexes containing p54nrb. However, nuclear retention of mRNAs containing IRAlus is variable, and how regulation of retention and export is achieved is poorly understood. Here we show one mechanism of such regulation via the arginine methyltransferase CARM1 (coactivator-associated arginine methyltransferase 1). We demonstrate that disruption of CARM1 enhances the nuclear retention of mRNAs containing IRAlus. CARM1 regulates this nuclear retention pathway at two levels: CARM1 methylates the coiled-coil domain of p54nrb, resulting in reduced binding of p54nrb to mRNAs containing IRAlus, and also acts as a transcription regulator to suppress NEAT1 transcription, leading to reduced paraspeckle formation. These actions of CARM1 work together synergistically to regulate the export of transcripts containing IRAlus from paraspeckles under certain cellular stresses, such as poly(I:C) treatment. This work demonstrates how a post-translational modification of an RNA-binding protein affects protein–RNA interaction and also uncovers a mechanism of transcriptional regulation of the long noncoding RNA NEAT1.


Although all retroviruses recruit host cell RNAs into virions, both the spectrum of RNAs encapsidated and the mechanisms by which they are recruited remain largely unknown. Here, we used high-throughput sequencing to obtain a comprehensive description of the RNAs packaged by a model retrovirus, murine leukemia virus. The major encapsidated host RNAs are noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) and members of the VL30 class of endogenous retroviruses. Remarkably, although Moloney leukemia virus (MLV) assembles in the cytoplasm, precursors to specific tRNAs, small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs), and small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) are all enriched in virions. Consistent with their cytoplasmic recruitment, packaging of both pre-tRNAs and U6 snRNA requires the nuclear export receptor Exportin-5. Adenylated and uridylated forms of these RNAs accumulate in cells and virions when the cytoplasmic exoribonuclease DIS3L2 and subunits of the RNA exosome are depleted. Together, our data reveal that MLV recruits RNAs from a novel host cell surveillance pathway in which unprocessed and unneeded nuclear ncRNAs are exported to the cytoplasm for degradation.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) develops predominantly through pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) and intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) precursor lesions. Pancreatic acinar cells are reprogrammed to a "ductal-like" state during PanIN-PDA formation. Here, we demonstrate a parallel mechanism operative in mature duct cells during which functional cells undergo "ductal retrogression" to form IPMN-PDA. We further identify critical antagonistic roles for Brahma-related gene 1 (Brg1), a catalytic subunit of the SWI/SNF complexes, during IPMN-PDA development. In mature duct cells, Brg1 inhibits the dedifferentiation that precedes neoplastic transformation, thus attenuating tumor initiation. In contrast, Brg1 promotes tumorigenesis in full-blown PDA by supporting a mesenchymal-like transcriptional landscape. We further show that JQ1, a drug that is currently being tested in clinical trials for hematological malignancies, impairs PDA tumorigenesis by both mimicking some and inhibiting other Brg1-mediated functions. In summary, our study demonstrates the context-dependent roles of Brg1 and points to potential therapeutic treatment options based on epigenetic regulation in PDA.


Loss of function/dysregulation of inhibitor of growth 4 (ING4) and hyperactivation of NF-B are frequent events in many types of human malignancies. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these remarkable aberrations are not understood. Here, we report that ING4 is physically associated with JFK. We demonstrated that JFK targets ING4 for ubiquitination and degradation through assembly of an Skp1–Cul1–F-box (SCF) complex. We showed that JFK-mediated ING4 destabilization leads to the hyperactivation of the canonical NF-B pathway and promotes angiogenesis and metastasis of breast cancer. Significantly, the expression of JFK is markedly up-regulated in breast cancer, and the level of JFK is negatively correlated with that of ING4 and positively correlated with an aggressive clinical behavior of breast carcinomas. Our study identified SCFJFK as a bona fide E3 ligase for ING4 and unraveled the JFK–ING4–NF-B axis as an important player in the development and progression of breast cancer, supporting the pursuit of JFK as a potential target for breast cancer intervention.