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Genes Dev. 2012 Mar 1;26(5):503-14. doi: 10.1101/gad.183004.111.

Beyond tRNA cleavage: novel essential function for yeast tRNA splicing endonuclease unrelated to tRNA processing.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Center for RNA Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Pre-tRNA splicing is an essential process in all eukaryotes. In yeast and vertebrates, the enzyme catalyzing intron removal from pre-tRNA is a heterotetrameric complex (splicing endonuclease [SEN] complex). Although the SEN complex is conserved, the subcellular location where pre-tRNA splicing occurs is not. In yeast, the SEN complex is located at the cytoplasmic surface of mitochondria, whereas in vertebrates, pre-tRNA splicing is nuclear. We engineered yeast to mimic the vertebrate cell biology and demonstrate that all three steps of pre-tRNA splicing, as well as tRNA nuclear export and aminoacylation, occur efficiently when the SEN complex is nuclear. However, nuclear pre-tRNA splicing fails to complement growth defects of cells with defective mitochondrial-located splicing, suggesting that the yeast SEN complex surprisingly serves a novel and essential function in the cytoplasm that is unrelated to tRNA splicing. The novel function requires all four SEN complex subunits and the catalytic core. A subset of pre-rRNAs accumulates when the SEN complex is restricted to the nucleus, indicating that the SEN complex moonlights in rRNA processing. Thus, findings suggest that selection for the subcellular distribution of the SEN complex may reside not in its canonical, but rather in a novel, activity.

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