UAP56: A Dead Box Protein Required for Pre-mRNA Splicing: A Dissertation

Publication Date

May 1999

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Carrier Proteins; RNA, Messenger; RNA Splicing; Academic Dissertations; Dissertations, UMMS


Splicing of mRNA precursors (pre-mRNA) comprises a series of ATP-dependent steps, the first of which is the stable binding of U2 snRNP at the pre-mRNA branchpoint. The basis of ATP use in splicing is not well understood. Several yeast splicing factors belong to DEAD/H box family of RNA-dependent ATPase, and are implicated in dynamic RNA structure rearrangement during spliceosome assembly. In mammals, however, such information is conspicuously lacking. In fact, none of the known mammalian splicing factors has characteristics for ATP hydrolysis.

In an attempt to identify mammalian splicing factors involved in ATP usage, we have developed a novel approach to identify and purify spliceosomal ATP binding proteins. Six spliceosomal ATP binding proteins were found, one of them, SAFp56, was purified and microsequenced, and found to be a DEAD box protein containing unique DECD motif instead of the canonical DEAD motif. During the course of this work, a new functional region in U2AF65, an essential splicing factor required for U2 snRNP entry into the spliceosome, was defined. This information was used to clone a human U2AF65 associated protein (UAP). UAP and SAFp56 are identical. We refer to this protein as hUAP56 (human 56 kDa U2AF65 associated protein).

We present evidence that hUAP56 is an essential splicing factor required for the U2 snRNP binding to pre-mRNA. Interestingly, UAP56 is recruited to pre-mRNA in a polypyrimidine tract bound U2AF65-dependent fashion. This result underscores a new function of U2AF65, and provides the first description of how a specific DEAD box protein is directed to a pre-mRNA splicing signal, and/or, to the proximity of its substrate at a particular stage.

Like an authentic DEAD box protein. hUAP56 has ATP binding, RNA-stimulated ATPase, as well as RNA binding activity. A particularly novel result is that the ATPase activity of UAP56 is stimulated by U2AF65. This observation strongly suggests the role of UAP56 in ATP dependent mechanism during U2 snRNP binding to the pre-mRNA branchpoint, and implies that UAP56 may function through a distinct mechanism.

We identify yeast UAP (yUAP), a highly conserved S. cerevisiae homologue of hUAP56. yUAP is essential for viability, can be functionally substituted for by hUAP56, and like its human counterpart, is an essential pre-mRNA splicing factor required for spliceosome assembly. Furthermore, we show that yUAP is required for formation of the branchpoint dependent commitment complex, the precursor for U2 snRNP addition. Site-directed mutagenesis revealed that all DEAD box protein consensus motifs are required for yUAP function. Interestingly, a strain harboring a yUAP mutant in which the DECD sequence, characteristic of UAP members, was changed to canonical sequence, is inviable. Our results demonstrate that UAP is structurally and functionally conserved from yeast to man. In conjunction with previous studies, we conclude that at least two DEAD box proteins, Prp5p and yUAP, are required for the U2 snRNP-branchpoint interaction.


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