2-D structure of the A region of Xist RNA and its implication for PRC2 association

PLoS Biol. 2010 Jan;8(1):e1000276. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000276. Epub 2010 Jan 5.


In placental mammals, inactivation of one of the X chromosomes in female cells ensures sex chromosome dosage compensation. The 17 kb non-coding Xist RNA is crucial to this process and accumulates on the future inactive X chromosome. The most conserved Xist RNA region, the A region, contains eight or nine repeats separated by U-rich spacers. It is implicated in the recruitment of late inactivated X genes to the silencing compartment and likely in the recruitment of complex PRC2. Little is known about the structure of the A region and more generally about Xist RNA structure. Knowledge of its structure is restricted to an NMR study of a single A repeat element. Our study is the first experimental analysis of the structure of the entire A region in solution. By the use of chemical and enzymatic probes and FRET experiments, using oligonucleotides carrying fluorescent dyes, we resolved problems linked to sequence redundancies and established a 2-D structure for the A region that contains two long stem-loop structures each including four repeats. Interactions formed between repeats and between repeats and spacers stabilize these structures. Conservation of the spacer terminal sequences allows formation of such structures in all sequenced Xist RNAs. By combination of RNP affinity chromatography, immunoprecipitation assays, mass spectrometry, and Western blot analysis, we demonstrate that the A region can associate with components of the PRC2 complex in mouse ES cell nuclear extracts. Whilst a single four-repeat motif is able to associate with components of this complex, recruitment of Suz12 is clearly more efficient when the entire A region is present. Our data with their emphasis on the importance of inter-repeat pairing change fundamentally our conception of the 2-D structure of the A region of Xist RNA and support its possible implication in recruitment of the PRC2 complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosomes, Human, X / genetics
  • Female
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Interspersed Repetitive Sequences / genetics
  • Mice
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Phylogeny
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics*
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • X Chromosome / genetics*
  • X Chromosome Inactivation / genetics


  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Repressor Proteins
  • XIST non-coding RNA