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J Cell Sci. 2009 May 15;122(Pt 10):1487-94. doi: 10.1242/jcs.047399.

Origins and activities of the eukaryotic exosome.

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Centre for mRNP Biogenesis and Metabolism, Department of Molecular Biology, C. F. Møllers Allé 1130, University of Aarhus, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.


The exosome is a multi-subunit 3'-5' exonucleolytic complex that is conserved in structure and function in all eukaryotes studied to date. The complex is present in both the nucleus and cytoplasm, where it continuously works to ensure adequate quantities and quality of RNAs by facilitating normal RNA processing and turnover, as well as by participating in more complex RNA quality-control mechanisms. Recent progress in the field has convincingly shown that the nucleolytic activity of the exosome is maintained by only two exonuclease co-factors, one of which is also an endonuclease. The additional association of the exosome with RNA-helicase and poly(A) polymerase activities results in a flexible molecular machine that is capable of dealing with the multitude of cellular RNA substrates that are found in eukaryotic cells. Interestingly, the same basic set of enzymatic activities is found in prokaryotic cells, which might therefore illustrate the evolutionary origin of the eukaryotic system. In this Commentary, we compare the structural and functional characteristics of the eukaryotic and prokaryotic RNA-degradation systems, with an emphasis on some of the functional networks in which the RNA exosome participates in eukaryotes.

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