The spliceosome, one of the most complex machineries of eukaryotic cells, removes intronic sequences from primary transcripts to generate functional messenger and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNA). Genetic, biochemical, and structural data reveal that the spliceosome is an RNA-based enzyme. Striking mechanistic and structural similarities strongly argue that pre-mRNA introns originated from self-catalytic group II ribozymes. However, in the spliceosome, protein components organize and activate the catalytic-site RNAs, and recognize and pair together splice sites at intron boundaries. The spliceosome is a dynamic, reversible, and flexible machine that chaperones small nuclear (sn) RNAs and a variety of pre-mRNA sequences into conformations that enable intron removal. This malleability likely contributes to the regulation of alternative splicing, a prevalent process contributing to cell differentiation, homeostasis, and disease.
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