In eukaryotes, most messenger RNA precursors (pre-mRNA) undergo extensive processing, leading to the cleavage of the transcript followed by the addition of a poly(A) tail. This process is executed by a large complex known as the Cleavage and Polyadenylation Complex (CPC). Its central subcomplex, the Cleavage and Polyadenylation Specificity Factor (CPSF) complex is responsible for recognizing a short hexameric element AAUAAA located at the 3’end in the nascent mRNA molecule and catalyzing the pre-mRNA cleavage. In the round nematode C. elegans, the cleavage reaction is executed by a subunit of this complex named CPSF3, a highly conserved RNA endonuclease. While the crystal structure of its human ortholog CPSF73 has been recently identified, we still do not understand the molecular mechanisms and sequence specificity used by this protein to induce cleavage, which in turn would help to understand how this process is executed in detail. Additionally, we do not understand in additional factors are needed for this process. In order to address these issues, we performed a comparative analysis of the CPSF3 protein in higher eukaryotes to identify conserved functional domains. The overall percent identities for members of the CPSF complex range from 33.68% to 56.49%, suggesting that the human and C. elegans orthologs retain a high level of conservation. CPSF73 is the protein with the overall highest percent identity of the CPSF complex, with its active site-containing domain possessing 74.60% identity with CPSF3. Additionally, we gathered and expressed using a bacterial expression system CPSF3 and a mutant, which is unable to perform the cleavage reaction, and developed an in vitro cleavage assay to test whether CPSF3 activity is necessary and sufficient to induce nascent mRNA cleavage. This project establishes tools to better understand how CPSF3 functions within the CPC and sheds light on the biology surrounding the transcription process as a whole.
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