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In eukaryotes, the removal of nuclear noncoding sequences (pre-mRNA splicing) is catalyzed by the spliceosome, which consists of five ribonucleoprotein particles (U1, U2, U4, U5 and U6 snRNPs, each with a respective snRNA) and a plethora of protein factors that aid spliceosomal maturation, assembly, activation and disassembly. Recently, the U5 snRNP maturation factor Aar2p from baker's yeast has been characterized structurally and biochemically. Aar2p binds to the RNaseH (RH) and Jab1/MPN domains of the highly conserved U5-specific Prp8p, which forms a framework for the spliceosomal catalytic centre. Thereby, Aar2p sterically excludes Brr2p, a helicase essential for the catalytic activation of the spliceosome, from Prp8p binding. At the same time, Aar2p blocks U4/U6 di-snRNA binding to Prp8p. Aar2p therefore prevents premature spliceosome activation and its functions are regulated by reversible phosphorylation. To date, little is known about the hypothetical human Aar2 (hsAar2) orthologue C20ORF4. This study identifies C20ORF4 (i) as part of the HeLa proteome by Western blotting and (ii) as a true Aar2 orthologue which binds to the RH domain (hsRH) of Prp8 and corroborates an evolutionary link between yeast and human Aar2 function. An elaborate strategy was devised to crystallize hsAar2 in complex with hsRH. The analysis of initial weakly diffracting crystals obtained byin situproteolysis and homology modelling guided the design of an hsAar2 construct in which an internal loop was replaced by three serines (hsAar2Δloop). A complex of hsAar2Δloopand hsRH crystallized in space groupC2; the crystals diffracted to 2.35 Å resolution and were suitable for structure determination by molecular-replacement approaches. The study presented here suggests a connection between Aar2 and the spliceosome in human cells and paves the way for structural studies of human Aar2.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta Crystallographica Section F Structural Biology Communications


International Union of Crystallography (IUCr)

Publication Date





1421 - 1428