Maintaining genomic integrity is of paramount importance to embryonic stem cells (ESCs), as mutations are readily propagated to daughter cells. ESCs display hypersensitivity to DNA damage-induced apoptosis (DIA) to prevent such propagation, although the molecular mechanisms underlying this apoptotic response are unclear. Here, we report that the regulatory RNA Apela positively regulates p53-mediated DIA. Apela is highly expressed in mouse ESCs and is repressed by p53 activation, and Apela depletion compromises p53-dependent DIA. Although Apela contains a coding region, this coding ability is dispensable for Apela's role in p53-mediated DIA. Instead, Apela functions as a regulatory RNA and interacts with hnRNPL, which prevents the mitochondrial localization and activation of p53. Together, these results describe a tri-element negative feedback loop composed of p53, Apela, and hnRNPL that regulates p53-mediated DIA, and they further demonstrate that regulatory RNAs add a layer of complexity to the apoptotic response of ESCs after DNA damage.
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