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EMBO J. 2000 Jan 17;19(2):295-305.

Identification of an erythroid-enriched endoribonuclease activity involved in specific mRNA cleavage.

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Rutgers University, Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, 604 Allison Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8082, USA.


Stability of the human alpha-globin mRNA is conferred by a ribonucleoprotein complex termed the alpha-complex, which acts by impeding deadenylation. Using our recently devised in vitro decay assay, we demonstrate that the alpha-complex also functions by protecting the 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) from an erythroid-enriched, sequence-specific endoribonuclease activity. The cleavage site was mapped to a region protected by the alpha-complex and is regulated by the presence of the alpha-complex. Similar endoribonuclease cleavage products were also detected in erythroid cells expressing an exogenous alpha-globin gene. Nucleotide substitution of the target sequence renders the RNA refractory to the endoribonuclease activity. Insertion of the target sequence onto a heterologous RNA confers sequence-specific cleavage on the chimeric RNA, demonstrating the sequence specificity of this activity. We conclude that the alpha-complex stabilizes the alpha-globin mRNA in erythroid cells by a multifaceted approach, one aspect of which is to protect the 3'-UTR from specific endoribonuclease cleavage.

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