RESEARCH

The group was established in 2003 thanks to the Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship in Biomedical Sciences for Central Europe. Our major activities are focused on different aspects of the synthesis and turnover of various classes of RNAs. We work with two model organisms: yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and plant Arabidopsis thaliana.

YEASt PROJECTS
PLANT PROJECTS
TECHNIQUES

RECENT PUBLICATIONS

We publish so frequently that you get your first paper after a first year of PhD studies…

Modifications at the 5′-end of RNAs play a pivotal role in determining their fate. In eukaryotes, the DXO/Rai1 family of enzymes removes numerous 5′-end RNA modifications, thereby regulating RNA turnover. Mouse DXO catalyzes the elimination of incomplete 5′-end caps (including pyrophosphate) and the non-canonical NAD+ cap on mRNAs, and possesses distributive 5′-3′ exoribonuclease activity toward 5′-monophosphate (5′-PO4) RNA. Here, we demonstrate that DXO also catalyzes the hydrolysis of RNAs bearing a 5′-hydroxyl group (5′-OH RNA). The crystal structure of DXO in complex with a 5′-OH RNA substrate mimic at 2.0 Å resolution provides elegant insight into the molecular mechanism of this activity. More importantly, the structure predicts that DXO first removes a dinucleotide from 5′-OH RNA. Our nuclease assays confirm this prediction and demonstrate that this 5′-hydroxyl dinucleotide hydrolase (HDH) activity for DXO is higher than the subsequent 5′-3′ exoribonuclease activity for selected substrates. Fission yeast Rai1 also has HDH activity although it does not have 5′-3′ exonuclease activity, and the Rat1-Rai1 complex can completely degrade 5′-OH RNA. An Arabidopsis DXO1 variant is active toward 5′-OH RNA but prefers 5′-PO4 RNA. Collectively, these studies demonstrate the diverse activities of DXO/Rai1 and expands the collection of RNA substrates that can undergo 5′-3′ mediated decay.

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Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a conserved eukaryotic RNA surveillance mechanism that degrades aberrant mRNAs comprising a premature translation termination codon. The adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-dependent RNA helicase up-frameshift 1 (UPF1) is a major NMD factor in all studied organisms; however, the complexity of this mechanism has not been fully characterized in plants. To identify plant NMD factors, we analyzed UPF1-interacting proteins using tandem affinity purification coupled to mass spectrometry. Canonical members of the NMD pathway were found along with numerous NMD candidate factors, including conserved DEA(D/H)-box RNA helicase homologs of human DDX3, DDX5 and DDX6, translation initiation factors, ribosomal proteins and transport factors. Our functional studies revealed that depletion of DDX3 helicases enhances the accumulation of NMD target reporter mRNAs but does not result in increased protein levels. In contrast, silencing of DDX6 group leads to decreased accumulation of the NMD substrate. The inhibitory effect of DDX6-like helicases on NMD was confirmed by transient overexpression of RH12 helicase. These results indicate that DDX3 and DDX6 helicases in plants have a direct and opposing contribution to NMD and act as functional NMD factors.

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Utilization of non-AUG alternative translation start sites is most common in bacteria and viruses, but it has been also reported in other organisms. This phenomenon increases proteome complexity by allowing expression of multiple protein isoforms from a single gene. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a few described cases concern proteins that are translated from upstream near-cognate start codons as N-terminally extended variants that localize to mitochondria. Using bioinformatics tools, we provide compelling evidence that in yeast the potential for producing alternative protein isoforms by non-AUG translation initiation is much more prevalent than previously anticipated and may apply to as many as a few thousand proteins. Several hundreds of candidates are predicted to gain a mitochondrial targeting signal (MTS), generating an unrecognized pool of mitochondrial proteins. We confirmed mitochondrial localization of a subset of proteins previously not identified as mitochondrial, whose standard forms do not carry an MTS. Our data highlight the potential of non-canonical translation initiation in expanding the capacity of the mitochondrial proteome and possibly also other cellular features.

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The DXO family of proteins participates in eukaryotic mRNA 5′-end quality control, removal of non-canonical NAD+ cap and maturation of fungal rRNA precursors. In this work, we characterize the Arabidopsis thaliana DXO homolog, DXO1. We demonstrate that the plant-specific modification within the active site negatively affects 5′-end capping surveillance properties of DXO1, but has only a minor impact on its strong deNADding activity. Unexpectedly, catalytic activity does not contribute to striking morphological and molecular aberrations observed upon DXO1 knockout in plants, which include growth and pigmentation deficiency, global transcriptomic changes and accumulation of RNA quality control siRNAs. Conversely, these phenotypes depend on the plant-specific N-terminal extension of DXO1. Pale-green coloration of DXO1-deficient plants and our RNA-seq data reveal that DXO1 affects chloroplast-localized processes. We propose that DXO1 mediates the connection between RNA turnover and retrograde chloroplast-to-nucleus signaling independently of its deNADding properties.

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Transcribing RNA Polymerase II interacts with multiple factors that orchestrate maturation and stabilisation of messenger RNA. For the majority of noncoding RNAs, the polymerase complex employs entirely different strategies, which usually direct the nascent transcript to ribonucleolytic degradation. However, some noncoding RNA classes use endo- and exonucleases to achieve functionality. Here we review processing of small nucleolar RNAs that are transcribed by RNA Polymerase II as precursors, and whose 5′ and 3′ ends undergo processing to release mature, functional molecules. The maturation strategies of these noncoding RNAs in various organisms follow a similar pattern but employ different factors and are strictly correlated with genomic organisation of their genes.

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Small nucleolar RNA (snoRNA) are conserved and essential non-coding RNA that are transcribed by RNA Polymerase II (Pol II). Two snoRNA classes, formerly distinguished by their structure and ribonucleoprotein composition, act as guide RNA to target RNA such as ribosomal RNA, and thereby introduce specific modifications. We have studied the 5’end processing of individually transcribed snoRNA in S. cerevisiae to define their role in snoRNA biogenesis and functionality. Here we show that pre-snoRNA processing by the endonuclease Rnt1 occurs co-transcriptionally with removal of the m7G cap facilitating the formation of box C/D snoRNA. Failure of this process causes aberrant 3’end processing and mislocalization of snoRNA to the cytoplasm. Consequently, Rnt1-dependent 5’end processing of box C/D snoRNA is critical for snoRNA-dependent methylation of ribosomal RNA. Our results reveal that the 5’end processing of box C/D snoRNA defines their distinct pathway of maturation.

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Defects in RNA processing and degradation pathways often lead to developmental abnormalities, impaired hormonal signaling and altered resistance to abiotic and biotic stress. Here we report that components of the 5′-3′ mRNA decay pathway, DCP5, LSM1-7 and XRN4, contribute to a proper response to a key plant hormone abscisc acid (ABA), albeit in a different manner. Plants lacking DCP5 are more sensitive to ABA during germination, whereas lsm1a lsm1b and xrn4-5 mutants are affected at the early stages of vegetative growth. In addition, we show that DCP5 and LSM1 regulate mRNA stability and act in translational repression of the main components of the early ABA signaling, PYR/PYL ABA receptors and SnRK2s protein kinases. mRNA decapping DCP and LSM1-7 complexes also appear to modulate ABA-dependent expression of stress related transcription factors from the AP2/ERF/DREB family that in turn affect the level of genes regulated by the PYL/PYR/RCAR-PP2C-SnRK2 pathway. These observations suggest that ABA signaling through PYL/PYR/RCAR receptors and SnRK2s kinases is regulated directly and indirectly by the cytoplasmic mRNA decay pathway.

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Arabidopsis thaliana contains two nuclear XRN2/3 5′-3′ exonucleases that are homologs of yeast and human Rat1/Xrn2 proteins involved in the processing and degradation of several classes of nuclear RNAs and in transcription termination of RNA polymerase II. Using strand-specific short read sequencing we show that knockdown of XRN3 leads to an altered expression of hundreds of genes and the accumulation of uncapped and polyadenylated read-through transcripts generated by inefficiently terminated Pol II. Our data support the notion that XRN3-mediated changes in the expression of a subset of genes are caused by upstream read-through transcription and these effects are enhanced by RNA-mRNA chimeras generated in xrn3 plants. In turn, read-through transcripts that are antisense to downstream genes may trigger production of siRNA. Our results highlight the importance of XRN3 exoribonuclease in Pol II transcription termination in plants and show that disturbance in this process may significantly alter gene expression.

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PEOPLE

Some of us work with yeast, some of us work with plants
Yet you can always find one who doesn’t work at all