Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are an emerging class of transcripts that can modulate gene expression; however, their mechanisms of action remain poorly understood. Here, we experimentally determine the secondary structure of Braveheart (Bvht) using chemical probing methods and show that this ∼590 nt transcript has a modular fold. Using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated editing of mouse embryonic stem cells, we find that deletion of 11 nt in a 5' asymmetric G-rich internal loop (AGIL) of Bvht (bvhtdAGIL) dramatically impairs cardiomyocyte differentiation. We demonstrate a specific interaction between AGIL and cellular nucleic acid binding protein (CNBP/ZNF9), a zinc-finger protein known to bind single-stranded G-rich sequences. We further show that CNBP deletion partially rescues the bvhtdAGIL mutant phenotype by restoring differentiation capacity. Together, our work shows that Bvht functions with CNBP through a well-defined RNA motif to regulate cardiovascular lineage commitment, opening the door for exploring broader roles of RNA structure in development and disease.
Keywords: Braveheart; CNBP; SHAPE; cardiac; long non-coding RNA.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.