The primary goal of the proposed research is to determine the roles of SWI/SNF component CHR2/BRM ATPase in posttranscriptional processing of RNA transcriptome. CHR2/BRM is the ATPase subunit of the large SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) chromatin-remodeling complexes. SWI/SNF complexes are best known to remodel chromatin structures using energy derived from ATP hydrolysis. Metazoan and yeast SWI/SNF complexes also associate with nascent mRNA ribonucleoprotein complexes and long-noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). All these studies suggest that CHR2 and other SWI/SNF factors play non-canonical roles in RNA biology. Whether and how SWI/SNF components directly participate in post- transcriptional processing of RNA are unknown. Once thought to be only a messenger bridge between DNA and proteins, RNA is now known to influence many aspects of biology through activities that are attributable to its secondary structures. In fact, RNA secondary structures (RSS) contain a new set of information code that is interpreted and processed by specialized protein complexes to regulate RNA transcription, splicing, translation, localization and turnover. However, little is known about the identities of the proteins/complexes that can recognize specific target RNAs; and how they promote the structural remodeling of RSS in vivo. Many RNA species also undertake posttranscriptional RNA editing and /or modifications (REMs), which even add more complexity to regulate gene expression and biological functions. Whether and how RSS remodeling and REM alternation crosstalk with each other in higher eukaryotes, especially in the nucleus, is underexplored. The PI Zhang has recently made a groundbreaking discovery that CHR2 could remodel primary precursors of microRNAs and inhibit their processing in the model organism Arabidopsis. In the preliminary study, CHR2 was also found to have a cofactor named as multiple organellar RNA editing factor 8 (MORF8). MORF8 typically functions in mitochondria and plastids to participate in REMs. Importantly, loss-of-function mutants of CHR2 and MORF8 share nearly identical molecular and morphological defects in the microRNA pathway. In this setting, the PI Zhang would like to systematically investigate the roles of CHR2 in posttranscriptional processing of various RNA transcripts. Specifically, The PI Zhang proposes to: 1) identify the CHR2-bound mRNAs and lncRNAs among others and determine how CHR2 alters the RSS of transcriptome at the genome- wide level; and 2) conduct functional analysis of MORF8 in the nucleus; and determine whether and how CHR2-controlled RSS remodeling and MORF8-regulated REMs interplay with each other to control gene expression and functions. The proposed study will reveal the non-canonical but increasingly important roles of SWI/SNF complexes in posttranscriptional processing of RNA molecules. The new functions of SWI/SNF in RNA biology may be exploited in biotechnological and pharmaceutical applications to address physiological disorders that arise from dysfunctions of RNA processing in eukaryotes including human.
SWI/SNF complexes are immensely involved in human health as exemplified by the fact that mutations in SWI/SNF components are correlated with approximately 20 percent of human cancers. The proposed study is to determine how SWI/SNF complexes remodel RNA secondary structures and impact RNA editing and/or modifications to regulate gene expression and functions. The studies on the non-canonical roles of SWI/SNF complexes in the model organism Arabidopsis may provide a new idea to manipulate this famous protein complex for a better therapeutic strategy to cure human diseases and also to improve agricultural traits.