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Surveillance-ready transcription: Nuclear RNA decay as a default fate

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Original languageEnglish
Article number170270
JournalOpen Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2018


Eukaryotic cells synthesize enormous quantities of RNA from diverse classes, most of which are subject to extensive processing. These processes are inherently error-prone, and cells have evolved robust quality control mechanisms to selectively remove aberrant transcripts. These surveillance pathways monitor all aspects of nuclear RNA biogenesis, and in addition remove nonfunctional transcripts arising from spurious transcription and a host of non-protein-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). Surprisingly, this is largely accomplished with only a handful of RNA decay enzymes. It has, therefore, been unclear how these factors efficiently distinguish between functional RNAs and huge numbers of diverse transcripts that must be degraded. Here we describe how bona fide transcripts are specifically protected, particularly by 5 0 and 3 0 modifications. Conversely, a plethora of factors associated with the nascent transcripts all act to recruit the RNA quality control, surveillance and degradation machinery. We conclude that initiating RNAPII is ‘surveillance ready’, with degradation being a default fate for all transcripts that lack specific protective features. We further postulate that this promiscuity is a key feature that allowed the proliferation of vast numbers of ncRNAs in eukaryotes, including humans.

    Research areas

  • Gene expression, Quality control, RNA processing, RNA surveillance

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