Ribosome biogenesis is a dynamic multistep process, many features of which are still incompletely documented. Here, we show that changes in this pathway can be captured and annotated by means of a graphic set of pre-rRNA ratios, a technique we call Ratio Analysis of Multiple Precursors (RAMP). We find that knocking down a ribosome synthesis factor produces a characteristic RAMP profile that exhibits consistency across a range of depletion levels. This facilitates the inference of affected steps and simplifies comparative analysis. We applied RAMP to examine how endonucleolytic cleavages of the mouse pre-rRNA transcript in the internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) are affected by depletion of factors required for maturation of the small ribosomal subunit (Rcl1, Fcf1/Utp24, Utp23) and the large subunit (Pes1, Nog1). The data suggest that completion of early maturation in a subunit triggers its release from the common pre-rRNA transcript by stimulating cleavage at the proximal site in ITS1. We also find that splitting of pre-rRNA in the 3' region of ITS1 is prevalent in adult mouse tissues and quiescent cells, as it is in human cells. We propose a model for subunit separation during mammalian ribosome synthesis and discuss its implications for understanding pre-rRNA processing pathways.
© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.