The reversible state of proliferative arrest known as "cellular quiescence" plays an important role in tissue homeostasis and stem cell biology. By analyzing the expression of miRNAs and miRNA-processing factors during quiescence in primary human fibroblasts, we identified a group of miRNAs that are induced during quiescence despite markedly reduced expression of Exportin-5, a protein required for canonical miRNA biogenesis. The biogenesis of these quiescence-induced miRNAs is independent of Exportin-5 and depends instead on Exportin-1. Moreover, these quiescence-induced primary miRNAs (pri-miRNAs) are modified with a 2,2,7-trimethylguanosine (TMG)-cap, which is known to bind Exportin-1, and knockdown of Exportin-1 or trimethylguanosine synthase 1, responsible for (TMG)-capping, inhibits their biogenesis. Surprisingly, in quiescent cells Exportin-1-dependent pri-miR-34a is present in the cytoplasm together with a small isoform of Drosha, implying the existence of a different miRNA processing pathway in these cells. Our findings suggest that during quiescence the canonical miRNA biogenesis pathway is down-regulated and specific miRNAs are generated by an alternative pathway to regulate genes involved in cellular growth arrest.
Keywords: (TMG)-cap; XPO1; XPO5; pri-miRNA; quiescence.