Understanding RNA Binding by the Nonclassical Zinc Finger Protein CPSF30, a Key Factor in Polyadenylation during Pre-mRNA Processing

Biochemistry. 2021 Mar 16;60(10):780-790. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.0c00940. Epub 2021 Feb 22.


Cleavage and polyadenylation specificity factor 30 (CPSF30) is a zinc finger protein that regulates pre-mRNA processing. CPSF30 contains five CCCH domains and one CCHC domain and recognizes two conserved 3' pre-mRNA sequences: an AU hexamer and a U-rich motif. AU hexamer motifs are common in pre-mRNAs and are typically defined as AAUAAA. Variations within the AAUAAA hexamer occur in certain pre-mRNAs and can affect polyadenylation efficiency or be linked to diseases. The effects of disease-related variations on CPSF30/pre-mRNA binding were determined using a construct of CPSF30 that contains just the five CCCH domains (CPSF30-5F). Bioinformatics was utilized to identify the variability within the AU hexamer sequence in pre-mRNAs. The effects of this sequence variability on CPSF30-5F/RNA binding affinities were measured. Bases at positions 1, 2, 4, and 5 within the AU hexamer were found to be important for RNA binding. Bioinformatics revealed that the three bases flanking the AU hexamer at the 5' and 3' ends are twice as likely to be adenine or uracil as guanine and cytosine. The presence of A and U residues in these flanking regions was determined to promote higher-affinity CPSF30-5F/RNA binding than G and C residues. The addition of the zinc knuckle domain to CPSF30-5F (CPSF30-FL) restored binding to AU hexamer variants. This restoration of binding is connected to the presence of a U-rich sequence within the pre-mRNA to which the zinc knuckle binds. A mechanism of differential RNA binding by CPSF30, modulated by accessibility of the two RNA binding sites, is proposed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cattle
  • Cleavage And Polyadenylation Specificity Factor / chemistry
  • Cleavage And Polyadenylation Specificity Factor / genetics
  • Cleavage And Polyadenylation Specificity Factor / metabolism*
  • Poly U / metabolism*
  • Polyadenylation*
  • Protein Binding
  • RNA Precursors / genetics
  • RNA Precursors / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Zinc Fingers


  • Cleavage And Polyadenylation Specificity Factor
  • RNA Precursors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Poly U