Intron-encoded, antisense small nucleolar RNAs: the characterization of nine novel species points to their direct role as guides for the 2'-O-ribose methylation of rRNAs

J Mol Biol. 1996 Jul 12;260(2):178-95. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.1996.0391.


A growing number of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) are intron-encoded, contain the characteristic box C (UGAUGA) and box D (CUGA) motifs and exhibit long complementarities to conserved sequences in mature rRNAs. We have identified nine additional members of this family, U32 to U40. All but one are encoded in introns of ribosomal protein genes in vertebrates: U32 to U35 in rpL13a, U36 in rpL7a and U38 to U40 in rpS8. By contrast, U37 is encoded in elongation factor 2 gene. Interestingly, U32 and U36 each contain two complementarities (one to 18 S and the other to 28 S rRNA). U32 to U40 are fibrillarin-associated, devoid of a 5'-trimethyl-cap and display an exclusively nucleolar localization. They are all metabolically stable and roughly as abundant as previously reported members of this family. Characterization of their homologs in distant species shows that their 10 to 14 nt long rRNA complementarities are conserved. A clue on the function of this snoRNA family is provided by the comparative analysis of the largely expanded collection of their conserved duplexes with rRNA. Not only does each duplex span at least one site of 2'-O-ribose methylation in the rRNA but the modification site is always at the same position in the duplex, paired to the fifth nucleotide upstream from a box D motif in the snoRNA. Consistent with the notion that each snoRNA of this family guides one particular methylation along the rRNA sequence, we have detected several pairs of snoRNAs with overlapping complementarities to rRNA tracts with vicinal sites of ribose methylations. In each case, the two overlapping complementarities are shifted from each other by a distance equal to the spacing between the methylated sites which are thus found at the same position within each of the mutually exclusive duplexes. Finally, we have also identified, within three previously known snoRNAs, novel antisense elements able to form a canonical duplex around ribose-methylated sites in rRNA, which further supports the conclusion that the duplex structure provides the 2'-O-methyltransferase with the appropriate site-specificity on the substrate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Cell Nucleolus / chemistry*
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Databases, Factual
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Introns / genetics*
  • Methylation
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA Precursors / metabolism
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional*
  • RNA, Antisense / chemistry
  • RNA, Antisense / genetics
  • RNA, Antisense / metabolism*
  • RNA, Ribosomal / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Nuclear / chemistry
  • RNA, Small Nuclear / genetics
  • RNA, Small Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Ribose / metabolism


  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • RNA Precursors
  • RNA, Antisense
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Small Nuclear
  • fibrillarin
  • Ribose

Associated data

  • GENBANK/X94598
  • GENBANK/X94599
  • GENBANK/X94600
  • GENBANK/X94601
  • GENBANK/X94602
  • GENBANK/X94603
  • GENBANK/X94604
  • GENBANK/X94605
  • GENBANK/X94606
  • GENBANK/Z69622
  • GENBANK/Z69623
  • GENBANK/Z69624
  • GENBANK/Z69625
  • GENBANK/Z69626
  • GENBANK/Z69627
  • GENBANK/Z69628