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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Apr;40(7):3131-42. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr1009. Epub 2011 Dec 2.

Transcriptome-wide discovery of circular RNAs in Archaea.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Circular RNA forms had been described in all domains of life. Such RNAs were shown to have diverse biological functions, including roles in the life cycle of viral and viroid genomes, and in maturation of permuted tRNA genes. Despite their potentially important biological roles, discovery of circular RNAs has so far been mostly serendipitous. We have developed circRNA-seq, a combined experimental/computational approach that enriches for circular RNAs and allows profiling their prevalence in a whole-genome, unbiased manner. Application of this approach to the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus P2 revealed multiple circular transcripts, a subset of which was further validated independently. The identified circular RNAs included expected forms, such as excised tRNA introns and rRNA processing intermediates, but were also enriched with non-coding RNAs, including C/D box RNAs and RNase P, as well as circular RNAs of unknown function. Many of the identified circles were conserved in Sulfolobus acidocaldarius, further supporting their functional significance. Our results suggest that circular RNAs, and particularly circular non-coding RNAs, are more prevalent in archaea than previously recognized, and might have yet unidentified biological roles. Our study establishes a specific and sensitive approach for identification of circular RNAs using RNA-seq, and can readily be applied to other organisms.

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