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EMBO J. Jul 1, 1998; 17(13): 3747–3757.
PMCID: PMC1170710

The snoRNA box C/D motif directs nucleolar targeting and also couples snoRNA synthesis and localization.


Most small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) fall into two families, known as the box C/D and box H/ACA snoRNAs. The various box elements are essential for snoRNA production and for snoRNA-directed modification of rRNA nucleotides. In the case of the box C/D snoRNAs, boxes C and D and an adjoining stem form a vital structure, known as the box C/D motif. Here, we examined expression of natural and artificial box C/D snoRNAs in yeast and mammalian cells, to assess the role of the box C/D motif in snoRNA localization. The results demonstrate that the motif is necessary and sufficient for nucleolar targeting, both in yeast and mammals. Moreover, in mammalian cells, RNA is targeted to coiled bodies as well. Thus, the box C/D motif is the first intranuclear RNA trafficking signal identified for an RNA family. Remarkably, it also couples snoRNA localization with synthesis and, most likely, function. The distribution of snoRNA precursors in mammalian cells suggests that this coupling is provided by a specific protein(s) which binds the box C/D motif during or rapidly after snoRNA transcription. The conserved nature of the box C/D motif indicates that its role in coupling production and localization of snoRNAs is of ancient evolutionary origin.

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