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IUBMB Life. 2010 Oct;62(10):707-14. doi: 10.1002/iub.379.

CNBP: a multifunctional nucleic acid chaperone involved in cell death and proliferation control.

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Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Rosario, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas- Área Biología General, Dpto. de Ciencias Biológicas, Facultad de Ciencias Bioquímicas y Farmacéuticas, Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Suipacha 531, S2002LRK-Rosario, Argentina.


Cellular nucleic acid binding protein (CNBP) has been implicated in vertebrate craniofacial development and in myotonic dystrophy type 2 (DM2) and sporadic inclusion body myositis (sIBM) human diseases. In these seemingly unrelated biological processes, CNBP appears to be involved in controlling cell death and proliferation rates. Low levels of CNBP may reduce rate of global protein synthesis, thereby reducing proliferation and increasing apoptosis. Conversely, CNBP might affect transcription of genes required for cell proliferation. Experimental evidences gathered so far make it difficult to ascertain or rule out any of these possibilities. Moreover, both possibilities may not be mutually exclusive. CNBP is a small and strikingly conserved single-stranded nucleic acid binding protein that is able to bind DNA as well as RNA. CNBP has a broad spectrum of targets, ranging from regulatory sites in gene promoters to translational regulatory elements in mRNA untranslated regions. Biochemical experiments have recently shed light on the possible mechanism of action for CNBP, which may act as a nucleic acid chaperone catalyzing the rearrangement of G-rich nucleic acid secondary structures likely relevant for transcriptional and/or translational gene regulation. This review focuses on the involvement of CNBP in vertebrate craniofacial development and human DM2 and sIBM diseases, as well as on the biochemical and structural features of CNBP and its cellular and molecular mechanism of action.

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