Biomolecular Concepts (Oct 2012)

RNA regulons and the RNA-protein interaction network

  • Imig Jochen,
  • Kanitz Alexander,
  • Gerber André P.

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 3, no. 5
pp. 403 – 414


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The development of genome-wide analysis tools has prompted global investigation of the gene expression program, revealing highly coordinated control mechanisms that ensure proper spatiotemporal activity of a cell’s macromolecular components. With respect to the regulation of RNA transcripts, the concept of RNA regulons, which – by analogy with DNA regulons in bacteria – refers to the coordinated control of functionally related RNA molecules, has emerged as a unifying theory that describes the logic of regulatory RNA-protein interactions in eukaryotes. Hundreds of RNA-binding proteins and small non-coding RNAs, such as microRNAs, bind to distinct elements in target RNAs, thereby exerting specific and concerted control over posttranscriptional events. In this review, we discuss recent reports committed to systematically explore the RNA-protein interaction network and outline some of the principles and recurring features of RNA regulons: the coordination of functionally related mRNAs through RNA-binding proteins or non-coding RNAs, the modular structure of its components, and the dynamic rewiring of RNA-protein interactions upon exposure to internal or external stimuli. We also summarize evidence for robust combinatorial control of mRNAs, which could determine the ultimate fate of each mRNA molecule in a cell. Finally, the compilation and integration of global protein-RNA interaction data has yielded first insights into network structures and provided the hypothesis that RNA regulons may, in part, constitute noise ‘buffers’ to handle stochasticity in cellular transcription.