Structural and mechanistic insights into human splicing factor SF3b complex derived using an integrated approach guided by the cryo-EM density maps

RNA Biol. 2016 Oct 2;13(10):1025-1040. doi: 10.1080/15476286.2016.1218590. Epub 2016 Aug 11.


Pre-mRNA splicing in eukaryotes is performed by the spliceosome, a highly complex macromolecular machine. SF3b is a multi-protein complex which recognizes the branch point adenosine of pre-mRNA as part of a larger U2 snRNP or U11/U12 di-snRNP in the dynamic spliceosome machinery. Although a cryo-EM map is available for human SF3b complex, the structure and relative spatial arrangement of all components in the complex are not yet known. We have recognized folds of domains in various proteins in the assembly and generated comparative models. Using an integrative approach involving structural and other experimental data, guided by the available cryo-EM density map, we deciphered a pseudo-atomic model of the closed form of SF3b which is found to be a "fuzzy complex" with highly flexible components and multiplicity of folds. Further, the model provides structural information for 5 proteins (SF3b10, SF3b155, SF3b145, SF3b130 and SF3b14b) and localization information for 4 proteins (SF3b10, SF3b145, SF3b130 and SF3b14b) in the assembly for the first time. Integration of this model with the available U11/U12 di-snRNP cryo-EM map enabled elucidation of an open form. This now provides new insights on the mechanistic features involved in the transition between closed and open forms pivoted by a hinge region in the SF3b155 protein that also harbors cancer causing mutations. Moreover, the open form guided model of the 5' end of U12 snRNA, which includes the branch point duplex, shows that the architecture of SF3b acts as a scaffold for U12 snRNA: pre-mRNA branch point duplex formation with potential implications for branch point adenosine recognition fidelity.

Keywords: Cryo-EM; SF3b complex; U11/U12 di-snRNP; integrative structure modeling; spliceosome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Multimerization
  • RNA Splicing Factors / chemistry*
  • RNA Splicing Factors / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Nuclear / metabolism*


  • RNA Splicing Factors
  • RNA, Small Nuclear
  • U12 small nuclear RNA