Probing small ribosomal subunit RNA helix 45 acetylation across eukaryotic evolution

Nucleic Acids Res. 2022 Jun 24;50(11):6284-6299. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkac404.


NAT10 is an essential enzyme that catalyzes N4-acetylcytidine (ac4C) in eukaryotic transfer RNA and 18S ribosomal RNA. Recent studies suggested that rRNA acetylation is dependent on SNORD13, a box C/D small nucleolar RNA predicted to base-pair with 18S rRNA via two antisense elements. However, the selectivity of SNORD13-dependent cytidine acetylation and its relationship to NAT10's essential function remain to be defined. Here, we demonstrate that SNORD13 is required for acetylation of a single cytidine of human and zebrafish 18S rRNA. In-depth characterization revealed that SNORD13-dependent ac4C is dispensable for human cell growth, ribosome biogenesis, translation and development. This loss of function analysis inspired a cross-evolutionary survey of the eukaryotic rRNA acetylation 'machinery' that led to the characterization of many novel metazoan SNORD13 genes. This includes an atypical SNORD13-like RNA in Drosophila melanogaster which guides ac4C to 18S rRNA helix 45 despite lacking one of the two rRNA antisense elements. Finally, we discover that Caenorhabditis elegans 18S rRNA is not acetylated despite the presence of an essential NAT10 homolog. Our findings shed light on the molecular mechanisms underlying SNORD13-mediated rRNA acetylation across eukaryotic evolution and raise new questions regarding the biological and evolutionary relevance of this highly conserved rRNA modification.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Eukaryota* / genetics
  • Eukaryota* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S* / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar* / genetics
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar* / metabolism
  • Ribosome Subunits, Small / metabolism


  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar