Lemus-Diaz N, Ferreira RR, Bohnsack KE, Gruber J, Bohnsack MT
Nucleic Acids Research
Nucleic Acids Res. 2020;gkaa549. published online ahead of print, 2020 Jul 1.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important regulators of eukaryotic gene expression and their dysfunction is often associated with cancer. Alongside the canonical miRNA biogenesis pathway involving stepwise processing and export of pri- and pre-miRNA transcripts by the microprocessor complex, Exportin 5 and Dicer, several alternative mechanisms of miRNA production have been described. Here, we reveal that the atypical box C/D snoRNA U3, which functions as a scaffold during early ribosome assembly, is a miRNA source. We show that a unique stem-loop structure in the 5′ domain of U3 is processed to form short RNA fragments that associate with Argonaute. miR-U3 production is independent of Drosha, and an increased amount of U3 in the cytoplasm in the absence of Dicer suggests that a portion of the full length snoRNA is exported to the cytoplasm where it is efficiently processed into miRNAs. Using reporter assays, we demonstrate that miR-U3 can act as a low proficiency miRNA in vivo and our data support the 3′ UTR of the sortin nexin SNX27 mRNA as an endogenous U3-derived miRNA target. We further reveal that perturbation of U3 snoRNP assembly induces miR-U3 production, highlighting potential cross-regulation of target mRNA expression and ribosome production.