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Little Elongation Complex: Study reveals key piece of RNA-splicing machinery

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Posted August 9, 2013
The little elongation complex (LEC) regulates transcription initiation and elongation of snRNA genes. Shown is a polytene chromosome spread from Drosophila salivary glands ectopically expressing ICE1 (green), the central subunit of LEC that localizes to snRNA genes in both flies and mammals. Actively transcribing RNA polymerase II is shown in red. Credit: Shilatifard Lab

The little elongation complex (LEC) regulates transcription initiation and elongation of snRNA genes. Shown is a polytene chromosome spread from Drosophila salivary glands ectopically expressing ICE1 (green), the central subunit of LEC that localizes to snRNA genes in both flies and mammals. Actively transcribing RNA polymerase II is shown in red. Credit: Shilatifard Lab

A little-studied factor known as the Little Elongation Complex (LEC) plays a critical and previously unknown role in the transcription of small nuclear RNAs (snRNA), according to a new study led by scientists at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and published in the Aug. 22, 2013, issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

“We have found that LEC not only has a role in this process—it is like the “Swiss Army knife” of snRNA transcription,” says Stowers Investigator Ali Shilatifard, senior author of the study. “LEC does it all.” The findings shed new light on the mystery of snRNA transcription, which is vitally important to gene expression and regulation but has been poorly understood until now.

“As biologists we are very much interested in defining the molecular machineries involved in life, and snRNA are very important in life,” Shilatifard says. “DNA is a suitcase with all this information in it, and you need specific machinery to identify the right information to perform the exact process that’s needed. Now we understand another piece of that machinery.”

Understanding LEC and the machinery of snRNA transcription may also have implications for the treatment of disease. It could, for example, open the door to novel approaches for treating diseases that are associated with defective snRNA function and splicing, such as spinal muscular atrophy and Prader-Willi syndrome, or attacking cancer cells, whose proteins may also undergo splicing. But first, more mysteries must be solved, Shilatifard says.

Read more at: Phys.org

 

 

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