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Article

Conserved long-range base pairings are associated with pre-mRNA processing of human genes

Nature Communications. 2021. Vol. 12. No. 1.
Kalmykova S., Kalinina M., Denisov S., Skvortsov D., Guigó R., Pervouchine D. D.

The ability of nucleic acids to form double-stranded structures is essential for all living systems on Earth. Current knowledge on functional RNA structures is focused on locally-occurring base pairs. However, crosslinking and proximity ligation experiments demonstrated that long-range RNA structures are highly abundant. Here, we present the most complete to-date catalog of conserved complementary regions (PCCRs) in human protein-coding genes. PCCRs tend to occur within introns, suppress intervening exons, and obstruct cryptic and inactive splice sites. Double-stranded structure of PCCRs is supported by decreased icSHAPE nucleotide accessibility, high abundance of RNA editing sites, and frequent occurrence of forked eCLIP peaks. Introns with PCCRs show a distinct splicing pattern in response to RNAPII slowdown suggesting that splicing is widely affected by co-transcriptional RNA folding. The enrichment of 3’-ends within PCCRs raises the intriguing hypothesis that coupling between RNA folding and splicing could mediate co-transcriptional suppression of premature pre-mRNA cleavage and polyadenylation.