April 6: A new research has found that a protein complex plays a key role in clearing potential traffic jams in the production of RNA.
The research was published in the journal Genes & Development.
"The 'Ccr4-Not' complex is involved in nearly every step of this process from start to finish. Our new research shows that this complex has an additional function that helps maintain normal cellular function when something goes wrong during transcription," said Joseph C. Reese, a researcher.
During the transcription of RNA from DNA, RNAPII, itself a large complex made up of multiple protein subunits, travels along the strand of DNA reading the ATCG sequence and producing a complementary strand of RNA.
If the RNAPII encounters DNA damage, which can be caused by UV radiation and other sources, it can become stuck and prevent trailing polymerases from completing transcription of the gene, similar to how a stalled car prevents traffic behind it from flowing.
If this jam cannot be cleared, multiple RNAPIIs transcribing the same gene can start to pile up in a sort of traffic jam preventing the DNA from being repaired and hampering cell function.
"Defects in this pathway have been associated with a number of diseases and human syndromes, such as Cockayne syndrome- a neurodegenerative disorder that results in growth failure, neurological developmental defects, and sensitivity to UV light," Reese added.
RNA polymerase II (RNAPII), the enzyme that produces RNA from a DNA template, can become stuck due to damage to the DNA template, and these jams must be cleared to restore gene expression and normal cell function.
New research shows that the master regulatory complex, 'Ccr4-Not' performs this task, associating with RNAPII during the transcription of RNA from DNA and marking RNAPII for degradation when it becomes stuck, allowing the DNA to be repaired and normal cell function to resume.
"Normal cellular functions rely on what is sometimes called the 'central dogma of biology,'" said Reese.
The researchers used genetic methods and reconstitution biochemistry- a method whereby purified components of a cellular process can be added- taken away, and mixed in a precisely controlled manner to identify exactly how they function to show that 'Ccr4-Not' recruits factors that mark RNAPII with a small signalling molecule called ubiquitin.Attachment of ubiquitin to RNAPII triggers other cellular components to degrade the enzyme, clearing the jam.
"Mutating members of the 'Ccr4-Not' complex makes cells more sensitive to agents that damage the genome, but because 'Ccr4-Not' is involved in so many aspects of gene regulation it wasn't clear until now what its precise role was," said Reese.
"The fact that 'Ccr4-Not' recruited the destruction machinery to RNAPII was a surprising result, and suggests it acts as a tow truck to remove traffic jams throughout the genome," he added.
Protein complex clears potential traffic jams in RNA production, finds research