Ribonucleoprotein infrastructure regulating the flow of genetic information between the genome and the proteome.
Following transcription and splicing, each mRNA of a mammalian cell passes into the cytoplasm where its fate is in the hands of a complex network of ribonucleoproteins (mRNPs). The success or failure of a gene to be expressed depends on the performance of this mRNP infrastructure. The entry, gating, processing, and transit of each mRNA through an mRNP network helps determine the composition of a cell's proteome. The machinery that regulates storage, turnover, and translational activation of mRNAs is not well understood, in part, because of the heterogeneous nature of mRNPs. Recently, subsets of cellular mRNAs clustered as members of mRNP complexes have been identified by using antibodies reactive with RNA-binding proteins, including ELAV/Hu, eIF-4E, and poly(A)-binding proteins. Cytoplasmic ELAV/Hu proteins are involved in the stability and translation of early response gene (ERG) transcripts and are expressed predominately in neurons. mRNAs recovered from ELAV/Hu mRNP complexes were found to have similar sequence elements, suggesting a common structural linkage among them. This approach opens the possibility of identifying transcripts physically clustered in vivo that may have similar fates or functions. Moreover, the proteins encoded by physically organized mRNAs may participate in the same biological process or structural outcome, not unlike operons and their polycistronic mRNAs do in prokaryotic organisms. Our goal is to understand the organization and flow of genetic information on an integrative systems level by analyzing the collective properties of proteins and mRNAs associated with mRNPs in vivo.
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