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Genes Dev. 1997 Oct 1;11(19):2557-68.

AU-rich elements target small nuclear RNAs as well as mRNAs for rapid degradation.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


AU-rich elements (AREs, usually containing repeated copies of AUUUA), when present in the 3'-untranslated regions (UTRs) of many mammalian mRNAs, confer instability on their host RNA molecules. The viral small nuclear RNA (snRNA) Herpesvirus saimiri U RNA 1 (HSUR 1) also contains an AUUUA-rich sequence. Here, we report that this ARE induces rapid degradation of HSUR 1 itself and of other snRNAs including HSUR 2 and cellular U1. Mutational analyses of the viral ARE establish that sequence requirements for mRNA and snRNA decay are the same, suggesting a similar mechanism. Moreover, the in vivo degradation activity of mutant AREs correlates with their in vitro binding to the HuR protein, implicated previously as a component of the mRNA degradation machinery. Our results suggest that ARE-mediated instability can be uncoupled from both ongoing translation and deadenylation of the target RNA.

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