Shanshan Hu*, Xiaolin Wang*, Ge Shan. Insertion of an Alu element in an lncRNA leads to primate specific modulation of alternative splicing. Nat. Struct. Mol. Bio. 2016, Online (doi:10.1038/nsmb.3302).
ABSTRACT Noncoding RNAs, mobile elements, and alternative splicing are all critical for the regulation of gene expression. Here we show that a conserved noncoding RNA acquires a new function due to the insertion of a mobile element. We identified a noncoding RNA, termed 5S-OT, which is transcribed from 5S rDNA loci in eukaryotes including fission yeast and mammals. 5S-OT plays a cis role in regulating the transcription of 5S rRNA in mice and humans. In the anthropoidea suborder of primates, an antisense Alu element has been inserted at the 5S-OT locus. We found that in human cells, 5S-OT regulates alternative splicing of multiple genes in trans via Alu/anti-Alu pairing with target genes and by interacting with the splicing factor U2AF65. This trans effect of 5S-OT in splicing might be exploited in biotechnological applications.