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PLoS Biol. 2015 Nov 20;13(11):e1002307. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002307. eCollection 2015.

Evolutionary Conservation and Diversification of Puf RNA Binding Proteins and Their mRNA Targets.

Hogan GJ1,2, Brown PO1,2, Herschlag D1,3,4,5.

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Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, United States of America.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, United States of America.
Department of Chemistry, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.
Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.
ChEM-H Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.


Reprogramming of a gene's expression pattern by acquisition and loss of sequences recognized by specific regulatory RNA binding proteins may be a major mechanism in the evolution of biological regulatory programs. We identified that RNA targets of Puf3 orthologs have been conserved over 100-500 million years of evolution in five eukaryotic lineages. Focusing on Puf proteins and their targets across 80 fungi, we constructed a parsimonious model for their evolutionary history. This model entails extensive and coordinated changes in the Puf targets as well as changes in the number of Puf genes and alterations of RNA binding specificity including that: 1) Binding of Puf3 to more than 200 RNAs whose protein products are predominantly involved in the production and organization of mitochondrial complexes predates the origin of budding yeasts and filamentous fungi and was maintained for 500 million years, throughout the evolution of budding yeast. 2) In filamentous fungi, remarkably, more than 150 of the ancestral Puf3 targets were gained by Puf4, with one lineage maintaining both Puf3 and Puf4 as regulators and a sister lineage losing Puf3 as a regulator of these RNAs. The decrease in gene expression of these mRNAs upon deletion of Puf4 in filamentous fungi (N. crassa) in contrast to the increase upon Puf3 deletion in budding yeast (S. cerevisiae) suggests that the output of the RNA regulatory network is different with Puf4 in filamentous fungi than with Puf3 in budding yeast. 3) The coregulated Puf4 target set in filamentous fungi expanded to include mitochondrial genes involved in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and other nuclear-encoded RNAs with mitochondrial function not bound by Puf3 in budding yeast, observations that provide additional evidence for substantial rewiring of post-transcriptional regulation. 4) Puf3 also expanded and diversified its targets in filamentous fungi, gaining interactions with the mRNAs encoding the mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) complex I as well as hundreds of other mRNAs with nonmitochondrial functions. The many concerted and conserved changes in the RNA targets of Puf proteins strongly support an extensive role of RNA binding proteins in coordinating gene expression, as originally proposed by Keene. Rewiring of Puf-coordinated mRNA targets and transcriptional control of the same genes occurred at different points in evolution, suggesting that there have been distinct adaptations via RNA binding proteins and transcription factors. The changes in Puf targets and in the Puf proteins indicate an integral involvement of RNA binding proteins and their RNA targets in the adaptation, reprogramming, and function of gene expression.

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