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RNA Editing. Definition : any process, other than splicing, that results in a change in the sequence of a RNA transcript such that it differs from the sequence of the DNA template Discovered in trypanosome mitochondria Also common in plant mitochondria

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rna editing
RNA Editing

Definition: any process, other than splicing, that results in a change in the sequence of a RNA transcript such that it differs from the sequence of the DNA template

  • Discovered in trypanosome mitochondria
  • Also common in plant mitochondria
  • Also occurs in a few chloroplast genes of higher plants, and at least a few nuclear genes in mammals

L. Simpson

K. Stuart

discovery of rna editing in trypanosome mitochondria
Discovery of RNA Editing in Trypanosome Mitochondria
  • Unusual Mitos. called Kinetoplasts
  • DNA:
    • Maxicircles (22 kb in T. brucei), contains most of the genes
    • Minicircles (1-3 kb), heterogenous
  • Sequencing of genomic Mt DNA (Maxicircles) revealed apparent pseudogenes:
    • Full of Stop codons
    • Deletions of important amino acids
Where were the real functional genes?

Investigators generated cDNA clones to some of the kinetoplast mRNAs and sequenced them

Sequences were partially complementary to pseudogenes on maxicircle DNA

cytochrome oxidase

subunit II

the COXII DNA sequence above is missing 4 Us found in the mRNA

Called this “Editing” because it produced functional mRNAs and proteins from pseudogenes


Some genes are very heavily edited!


Cytochrome oxidase III

From Trypanosoma brucei

Lower case Us were inserted by editing.

The deleted Ts (found in the DNA) are indicated in upper case.

Fig. 16.15

editing mechanism
Editing Mechanism
  • Post-transcriptional
  • Guide RNAs (gRNAs) direct editing
    • gRNAs are small and complementary to portions of the edited mRNA
    • Base-pairing of gRNA with unedited RNA gives mismatched regions, which are recognized by the editing machinery
    • Machinery includes an Endonuclease, a Terminal UridylylTransferase (TUTase), and a RNA ligase
  • Editing is directional, from 3’ to 5’

Guide RNAs Direct Editing in Trypanosomes.

Editing is from 3’ to 5’ along an unedited RNA.



Editing Mechanism with the enzymes.

TUTase, or terminal uridylyl transferase, adds U(s) to the 3’ end created by cleavage of the pre-mRNA

from Fig. 16.20

other systems with rna editing
Other Systems with RNA Editing
  • Land plant (C  U) and Physarum (slime mold) mitochondria (nt insertions)
  • Chloroplasts of angiosperms (C  U)
  • Some nuclear genes in mammals
    • Apolipoprotein B, C  U
    • Glutamate receptor B, A  I (inosine)
  • Hepatitus delta virus (A  I)
  • Paramyxovirus (G insertions)

Editing of Oenothera mitochondrial RNAs

Determined by comparing sequences of cDNA copies of mt RNAs with the corresponding genomic gene.

editing of angiosperm mt rnas
Editing of Angiosperm Mt RNAs
  • Most RNAs are edited
  • Most events are C  U, but also U  C
  • Preferential editing of coding regions, but introns and untranslated regions are also edited.
  • Editing produces translatable RNAs, and restores conserved amino acids (i.e, functional proteins).

Possible mechanism for plant Mt editing: Deamination of cytosine (to uracil) by a cytidine deaminase






= O

= O





plant mt rna editing mechanism cont
Plant mt RNA Editing Mechanism (cont.)
  • Cytidine deaminases are known, and in fact one is involved in ApoB editing in mammals. Plant enzyme not identified yet.
  • How are editing sites recognized?
    • No guide RNAs have yet been found in angiosperm mitochondria.
editing of apolipoprotein b in mammals
Editing of Apolipoprotein B in Mammals
  • Large nuclear gene
  • Editing is C6666 U6666 in exon 26 of the 14 Kb mRNA
  • This creates a Stop codon, producing a truncated form of the protein

- both forms circulate in blood but have different functions

- the long form is endocytosed via the LDL receptor; the short form is not


Molecular Consequences of Editing ApoB pre-mRNA

(Splicing precedes editing)

Produced by Unedited mRNA

Produced by Edited mRNA

editing of apolipoprotein b the editosome
Editing of Apolipoprotein B – The Editosome
  • A cytidine deaminase activity is involved

– apobec (apoB mRNA editing enzyme catalytic subunit)

  • Another protein, ACF (apobec complementation factor) is also required
  • Both recognize sequences flanking the C to be edited
inosine has long been known from purine metabolism
Inosine has long been known from purine metabolism

Inosine also acts as a signaling molecule.

ADA deficiency is a metabolic disease.

a to i editing in rna
A to I Editing in RNA

1st case: Glutamate Receptor B

I read as G during translation, R instead of Q

Affects Ca2+ permeability, intracellular trafficking of receptor

mechanism of a to i editing
Mechanism of A to I Editing
  • dsRNA-dependent adenosine deaminase (ADAR)
    • converts A  I in 2 Glut Receptor B exons (changes the amino acids; I read as G during translation)
    • recognizes secondary structure around site to be edited
    • requires intron and exon sequences - acts on unspliced receptor pre-mRNA
    • has dsRNA binding domains as well as a catalytic center similar to the cytosine deaminase

ADARs – adenosine deaminases that work on RNA

<- key for editing of GlutR

Other possible functions:

- RNA modification (other types)

- RNAi

- Chromatin remodeling

dsRBD- dsRNA binding

Z – Zn, DNA binding

R-rich – Arg rich