Sm proteins are multimeric RNA-binding factors, found in all three domains of life. Eukaryotic Sm proteins, together with their associated RNAs, form small ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes important in multiple aspects of gene regulation. Comprehensive knowledge of the RNA components of Sm RNPs is critical for understanding their functions.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill have developed a multi-targeting RNA-immunoprecipitation sequencing (RIP-seq) strategy to reliably identify Sm-associated RNAs from Drosophila ovaries and cultured human cells. Using this method, they discovered three major categories of Sm-associated transcripts: small nuclear (sn)RNAs, small Cajal body (sca)RNAs and mRNAs. Additional RIP-PCR analysis showed both ubiquitous and tissue-specific interactions. They provide evidence that the mRNA-Sm interactions are mediated by snRNPs, and that one of the mechanisms of interaction is via base pairing. Moreover, the Sm-associated mRNAs are mature, indicating a splicing-independent function for Sm RNPs.
This study represents the first comprehensive analysis of eukaryotic Sm-containing RNPs, and provides a basis for additional functional analyses of Sm proteins and their associated snRNPs outside of the context of pre-mRNA splicing. These findings expand the repertoire of eukaryotic Sm-containing RNPs and suggest new functions for snRNPs in mRNA metabolism.