It takes two (Las1 HEPN endoribonuclease domains) to cut RNA correctly

J Biol Chem. 2020 May 1;295(18):5857-5870. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.011193. Epub 2020 Mar 27.


The ribosome biogenesis factor Las1 is an essential endoribonuclease that is well-conserved across eukaryotes and a newly established member of the higher eukaryotes and prokaryotes nucleotide-binding (HEPN) domain-containing nuclease family. HEPN nucleases participate in diverse RNA cleavage pathways and share a short HEPN nuclease motif (RφXXXH) important for RNA cleavage. Most HEPN nucleases participate in stress-activated RNA cleavage pathways; Las1 plays a fundamental role in processing pre-rRNA. Underscoring the significance of Las1 function in the cell, mutations in the human LAS1L (LAS1-like) gene have been associated with neurological dysfunction. Two juxtaposed HEPN nuclease motifs create Las1's composite nuclease active site, but the roles of the individual HEPN motif residues are poorly defined. Here using a combination of in vivo experiments in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and in vitro assays, we show that both HEPN nuclease motifs are required for Las1 nuclease activity and fidelity. Through in-depth sequence analysis and systematic mutagenesis, we determined the consensus HEPN motif in the Las1 subfamily and uncovered its canonical and specialized elements. Using reconstituted Las1 HEPN-HEPN' chimeras, we defined the molecular requirements for RNA cleavage. Intriguingly, both copies of the Las1 HEPN motif were important for nuclease function, revealing that both HEPN motifs participate in coordinating the RNA within the Las1 active site. We also established that conformational flexibility of the two HEPN domains is important for proper nuclease function. The results of our work reveal critical information about how dual HEPN domains come together to drive Las1-mediated RNA cleavage.

Keywords: LAS1L; Las1; Las1L; RNA cleavage; RNA degradation; RNA processing; endoribonuclease; higher eukaryotes and prokaryotes nucleotide-binding (HEPN); nuclease specificity; ribosomal RNA processing (rRNA processing); ribosome assembly; ribosome biogenesis factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Consensus Sequence
  • Endoribonucleases / chemistry
  • Endoribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Domains
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / cytology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism


  • RNA
  • Endoribonucleases

Associated data

  • PDB/6OF3
  • PDB/6OF2
  • PDB/5YJC
  • PDB/6E9F
  • PDB/4O1P