A unique HMG-box domain of mouse Maelstrom binds structured RNA but not double stranded DNA

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Pavol Genzor, A Bortvin


Piwi-interacting piRNAs are a major and essential class of small RNAs in the animal germ cells with a prominent role in transposon control. Efficient piRNA biogenesis and function require a cohort of proteins conserved throughout the animal kingdom. Here we studied Maelstrom (MAEL), which is essential for piRNA biogenesis and germ cell differentiation in flies and mice. MAEL contains a high mobility group (HMG)-box domain and a Maelstrom-specific domain with a presumptive RNase H-fold. We employed a combination of sequence analyses, structural and biochemical approaches to evaluate and compare nucleic acid binding of mouse MAEL HMG-box to that of canonical HMG-box domain proteins (SRY and HMGB1a). MAEL HMG-box failed to bind double-stranded (ds)DNA but bound to structured RNA. We also identified important roles of a novel cluster of arginine residues in MAEL HMG-box in these interactions. Cumulatively, our results suggest that the MAEL HMG-box domain may contribute to MAEL function in selective processing of retrotransposon RNA into piRNAs. In this regard, a cellular role of MAEL HMG-box domain is reminiscent of that of HMGB1 as a sentinel of immunogenic nucleic acids in the innate immune response.

Related Concepts

Cell Differentiation Process
Germ Cells
High Mobility Group Proteins
HMGB1 Protein
Laboratory mice
Nucleic Acids
Physiological Aspects

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