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Methods. 1999 Jan;17(1):74-83.

Identification and characterization of proteins binding A + U-rich elements.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157, USA.


A + U-Rich elements (AREs) have been extensively investigated as cis-acting determinants of rapid mRNA turnover. Recently, a number of RNA-binding proteins interacting with AREs have been described. This article presents strategies and techniques used by our laboratory to identify and characterize a family of ARE-binding proteins collectively termed AUF1. However, these techniques may be applied to the study of any protein displaying sequence-specific RNA binding activity. The techniques described here include the purification of native AUF1 from cultured cells as well as the preparation of recombinant AUF1 proteins using a bacterial expression system. Analyses of RNA-protein interactions are also described, including the use of gel mobility shift assays with synthetic RNA probes to monitor specific RNA binding activity in cell extracts or with recombinant proteins. Variations of this technique are also described to evaluate the RNA binding affinity of recombinant proteins and the use of specific RNA competitors to assess RNA determinants of protein binding specificity. Other techniques presented include the identification of specific proteins in RNA:protein complexes using antibody supershifts and the estimation of molecular weights of RNA-binding proteins by UV crosslinking. Results of individual experiments are presented as examples of some techniques. Throughout the article, suggestions are included to avoid commonly encountered problems and to assist in the optimization of these techniques for the study of other RNA-binding proteins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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