Microprocessor, composed of DROSHA and its cofactor DGCR8, initiates microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis by processing the primary transcripts of miRNA (pri-miRNAs). Researchers at the Seoul National University investigate the mechanism by which Microprocessor selects the cleavage site with single-nucleotide precision, which is crucial for the specificity and functionality of miRNAs. By testing ∼40,000 pri-miRNA variants, they find that for some pri-miRNAs the cleavage site is dictated mainly by the mGHG motif embedded in the lower stem region of pri-miRNA. Structural modeling and deep-sequencing-based complementation experiments show that the double-stranded RNA-binding domain (dsRBD) of DROSHA recognizes mGHG to place the catalytic center in the appropriate position. The mGHG motif as well as the mGHG-recognizing residues in DROSHA dsRBD are conserved across eumetazoans, suggesting that this mechanism emerged in an early ancestor of the animal lineage. These findings provide a basis for the understanding of miRNA biogenesis and rational design of accurate small-RNA-based gene silencing.
RNA-Seq reveals the molecular basis for the single-nucleotide precision of primary microRNA processing
Kwon SC, Baek SC, Choi YG, Yang J, Lee YS, Woo JS, Kim VN. (2018) Molecular Basis for the Single-Nucleotide Precision of Primary microRNA Processing. Mol Cell [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]