In miRNA biogenesis, pri-miRNA transcripts are converted into pre-miRNA hairpins. The in vivo properties of this process remain enigmatic. Here, we determine in vivo transcriptome-wide pri-miRNA processing using next-generation sequencing of chromatin-associated pri-miRNAs. We identify a distinctive Microprocessor signature in the transcriptome profile from which efficiency of the endogenous processing event can be accurately quantified. This analysis reveals differential susceptibility to Microprocessor cleavage as a key regulatory step in miRNA biogenesis. Processing is highly variable among pri-miRNAs and a better predictor of miRNA abundance than primary transcription itself. Processing is also largely stable across three cell lines, suggesting a major contribution of sequence determinants. On the basis of differential processing efficiencies, we define functionality for short sequence features adjacent to the pre-miRNA hairpin. In conclusion, we identify Microprocessor as the main hub for diversified miRNA output and suggest a role for uncoupling miRNA biogenesis from host gene expression.
Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.