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      Natural RNA circles function as efficient microRNA sponges

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          Abstract

          MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression that act by direct base pairing to target sites within untranslated regions of messenger RNAs. Recently, miRNA activity has been shown to be affected by the presence of miRNA sponge transcripts, the so-called competing endogenous RNA in humans and target mimicry in plants. We previously identified a highly expressed circular RNA (circRNA) in human and mouse brain. Here we show that this circRNA acts as a miR-7 sponge; we term this circular transcript ciRS-7 (circular RNA sponge for miR-7). ciRS-7 contains more than 70 selectively conserved miRNA target sites, and it is highly and widely associated with Argonaute (AGO) proteins in a miR-7-dependent manner. Although the circRNA is completely resistant to miRNA-mediated target destabilization, it strongly suppresses miR-7 activity, resulting in increased levels of miR-7 targets. In the mouse brain, we observe overlapping co-expression of ciRS-7 and miR-7, particularly in neocortical and hippocampal neurons, suggesting a high degree of endogenous interaction. We further show that the testis-specific circRNA, sex-determining region Y (Sry), serves as a miR-138 sponge, suggesting that miRNA sponge effects achieved by circRNA formation are a general phenomenon. This study serves as the first, to our knowledge, functional analysis of a naturally expressed circRNA.

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          Most cited references12

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          A coding-independent function of gene and pseudogene mRNAs regulates tumour biology

          The canonical role of messenger RNA (mRNA) is to deliver protein-coding information to sites of protein synthesis. However, given that microRNAs bind to RNAs, we hypothesized that RNAs possess a biological role in cancer cells that relies upon their ability to compete for microRNA binding and is independent of their protein-coding function. As a paradigm for the protein-coding-independent role of RNAs, we describe the functional relationship between the mRNAs produced by the PTEN tumour suppressor gene and its pseudogene (PTENP1) and the critical consequences of this interaction. We find that PTENP1 is biologically active as determined by its ability to regulate cellular levels of PTEN, and that it can exert a growth-suppressive role. We also show that PTENP1 locus is selectively lost in human cancer. We extend our analysis to other cancer-related genes that possess pseudogenes, such as oncogenic KRAS. Further, we demonstrate that the transcripts of protein coding genes such as PTEN are also biologically active. Together, these findings attribute a novel biological role to expressed pseudogenes, as they can regulate coding gene expression, and reveal a non-coding function for mRNAs.
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            Ago HITS-CLIP decodes miRNA-mRNA interaction maps

            Summary MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play critical roles in the regulation of gene expression. However, since miRNA activity requires base pairing with only 6-8 nucleotides of mRNA, predicting target mRNAs is a major challenge. Recently, high-throughput sequencing of RNAs isolated by crosslinking immunoprecipitation (HITS-CLIP) has identified functional protein-RNA interaction sites. Here we use HITS-CLIP to covalently crosslink native Argonaute (Ago) protein-RNA complexes in mouse brain. This produced two simultaneous datasets—Ago-miRNA and Ago-mRNA binding sites—that were combined with bioinformatic analysis to identify miRNA-target mRNA interaction sites. We validated genome-wide interaction maps for miR-124, and generated additional maps for the 20 most abundant miRNAs present in P13 mouse brain. Ago HITS-CLIP provides a general platform for exploring the specificity and range of miRNA action in vivo, and identifies precise sequences for targeting clinically relevant miRNA-mRNA interactions.
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              In vivo identification of tumor- suppressive PTEN ceRNAs in an oncogenic BRAF-induced mouse model of melanoma.

              We recently proposed that competitive endogenous RNAs (ceRNAs) sequester microRNAs to regulate mRNA transcripts containing common microRNA recognition elements (MREs). However, the functional role of ceRNAs in cancer remains unknown. Loss of PTEN, a tumor suppressor regulated by ceRNA activity, frequently occurs in melanoma. Here, we report the discovery of significant enrichment of putative PTEN ceRNAs among genes whose loss accelerates tumorigenesis following Sleeping Beauty insertional mutagenesis in a mouse model of melanoma. We validated several putative PTEN ceRNAs and further characterized one, the ZEB2 transcript. We show that ZEB2 modulates PTEN protein levels in a microRNA-dependent, protein coding-independent manner. Attenuation of ZEB2 expression activates the PI3K/AKT pathway, enhances cell transformation, and commonly occurs in human melanomas and other cancers expressing low PTEN levels. Our study genetically identifies multiple putative microRNA decoys for PTEN, validates ZEB2 mRNA as a bona fide PTEN ceRNA, and demonstrates that abrogated ZEB2 expression cooperates with BRAF(V600E) to promote melanomagenesis. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                March 2013
                February 27 2013
                March 2013
                : 495
                : 7441
                : 384-388
                Article
                10.1038/nature11993
                23446346
                01e3f5db-195c-40ef-8fd5-30005722054d
                © 2013

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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