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Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 May;39(9):3879-91. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq1355. Epub 2011 Jan 18.

Identification of human miRNA precursors that resemble box C/D snoRNAs.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dow Street, Dundee DD1 5EH, UK.


There are two main classes of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs): the box C/D snoRNAs and the box H/ACA snoRNAs that function as guide RNAs to direct sequence-specific modification of rRNA precursors and other nucleolar RNA targets. A previous computational and biochemical analysis revealed a possible evolutionary relationship between miRNA precursors and some box H/ACA snoRNAs. Here, we investigate a similar evolutionary relationship between a subset of miRNA precursors and box C/D snoRNAs. Computational analyses identified 84 intronic miRNAs that are encoded within either box C/D snoRNAs, or in precursors showing similarity to box C/D snoRNAs. Predictions of the folded structures of these box C/D snoRNA-like miRNA precursors resemble the structures of known box C/D snoRNAs, with the boxes C and D often in close proximity in the folded molecule. All five box C/D snoRNA-like miRNA precursors tested (miR-27b, miR-16-1, mir-28, miR-31 and let-7g) bind to fibrillarin, a specific protein component of functional box C/D snoRNP complexes. The data suggest that a subset of small regulatory RNAs may have evolved from box C/D snoRNAs.

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