Drosophila Belle (human ortholog DDX3) is a conserved DEAD-box RNA helicase implicated in regulating gene expression. However, the molecular mechanisms by which Belle/DDX3 regulates gene expression are poorly understood. Here we performed systematic mutational analysis to determine the contributions of conserved motifs within Belle to its in vivo function. We found that Belle RNA-binding and RNA-unwinding activities and intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) are required for Belle in vivo function. Expression of Belle ATPase mutants that cannot bind, hydrolyze, or release ATP resulted in dominant toxic phenotypes. Mechanistically, we discovered that Belle up-regulates reporter protein level when tethered to reporter mRNA, without corresponding changes at the mRNA level, indicating that Belle promotes translation of mRNA that it binds. Belle ATPase activity and amino-terminal IDR were required for this translational promotion activity. We also found that ectopic ovary expression of dominant Belle ATPase mutants decreases levels of cyclin proteins, including Cyclin B, without corresponding changes in their mRNA levels. Finally, we found that Belle binds endogenous cyclin B mRNA. We propose that Belle promotes translation of specific target mRNAs, including cyclin B mRNA, in an ATPase activity-dependent manner.
Keywords: ATPase; DEAD-box; Drosophila; RNA-binding; helicase; posttranscriptional gene regulation.
© 2019 Liao et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society.