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Mol Cell Biol. 2005 Sep;25(17):7580-91.

ELAV multimerizes on conserved AU4-6 motifs important for ewg splicing regulation.

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Department of Biology, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454, USA.


ELAV is a gene-specific regulator of alternative pre-mRNA processing in Drosophila neurons. Since ELAV/Hu proteins preferentially bind to AU-rich regions that are generally abundant in introns and untranslated regions, it has not been clear how gene specificity is achieved. Here we used a combination of in vitro biochemical experiments together with phylogenetic comparisons and in vivo analysis of Drosophila transgenes to study ELAV binding to the last ewg intron and splicing regulation. In vitro binding studies of ELAV show that ELAV multimerizes on the ewg binding site and forms a defined and saturable complex. Further, sizing of the ELAV-RNA complex and a series of titration experiments indicate that ELAV forms a dodecameric complex on 135 nucleotides in the last ewg intron. Analysis of the substrate RNA requirements for ELAV binding and complex formation indicates that a series of AU(4-6) motifs spread over the entire binding site are important, but not a strictly defined sequence element. The importance of AU(4-6) motifs, but not spacing between them, is further supported by evolutionary conservation in several melanogaster species subgroups. Finally, using transgenes we demonstrate in fly neurons that ELAV-mediated regulation of ewg intron 6 splicing requires several AU(4-6) motifs and that introduction of spacer sequence between conserved AU(4-6) motifs has a minimal effect on splicing. Collectively, our results suggest that ELAV multimerization and binding to multiple AU(4-6) motifs contribute to target RNA recognition and processing in a complex cellular environment.

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