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RNA. 2006 Sep;12(9):1738-46. Epub 2006 Jul 31.

Functional spliceosomal A complexes can be assembled in vitro in the absence of a penta-snRNP.

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Department of Cellular Biochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Two different models currently exist for the assembly pathway of the spliceosome, namely, the traditional model, in which spliceosomal snRNPs associate in a stepwise, ordered manner with the pre-mRNA, and the holospliceosome model, in which all spliceosomal snRNPs preassemble into a penta-snRNP complex. Here we have tested whether the spliceosomal A complex, which contains solely U1 and U2 snRNPs bound to pre-mRNA, is a functional, bona fide assembly intermediate. Significantly, A complexes affinity-purified from nuclear extract depleted of U4/U6 snRNPs (and thus unable to form a penta-snRNP) supported pre-mRNA splicing in nuclear extract depleted of U2 snRNPs, whereas naked pre-mRNA did not. Mixing experiments with purified A complexes and naked pre-mRNA additionally confirmed that under these conditions, A complexes do not form de novo. Thus, our studies demonstrate that holospliceosome formation is not a prerequisite for generating catalytically active spliceosomes and that, at least in vitro, the U1 and U2 snRNPs can functionally associate with the pre-mRNA, prior to and independent of the tri-snRNP. The ability to isolate functional spliceosomal A complexes paves the way to study in detail subsequent spliceosome assembly steps using purified components.

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