Ribosomes have been suggested to directly control gene regulation, but regulatory roles for ribosomal RNA (rRNA) remain largely unexplored. Expansion segments (ESs) consist of multitudes of tentacle-like rRNA structures extending from the core ribosome in eukaryotes. ESs are remarkably variable in sequence and size across eukaryotic evolution with largely unknown functions. In characterizing ribosome binding to a regulatory element within a Homeobox (Hox) 5' UTR, we identify a modular stem-loop within this element that binds to a single ES, ES9S. Engineering chimeric, "humanized" yeast ribosomes for ES9S reveals that an evolutionary change in the sequence of ES9S endows species-specific binding of Hoxa9 mRNA to the ribosome. Genome editing to site-specifically disrupt the Hoxa9-ES9S interaction demonstrates the functional importance for such selective mRNA-rRNA binding in translation control. Together, these studies unravel unexpected gene regulation directly mediated by rRNA and how ribosome evolution drives translation of critical developmental regulators.
Keywords: ES9S; Hox cluster; RNA structure; RNA-protein interaction; expansion segment; internal initiation; internal ribosome entry site; mRNA translation; ribosomal RNA; ribosome; ribosome engineering; stem-loop; yeast.
Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.