Study reveals a key piece of RNA-splicing machinery

Study reveals a key piece of RNA-splicing machinery

Researchers at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research have come up with a study that reveals Little Elongation Complex (LEC) plays a critical role in the transcription of small nuclear RNAs (snRNA). This respective study was published in the issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

The findings of the study shed new light on the mystery of snRNA transcription. It is crucially important to gene expression and regulation however; it has been poorly understood until now.

SnRNA are very important molecular machinery involved in life. If you consider DNA as a suitcase with all the information in it then snRNA will help you to identify the right information to perform the exact process that’s needed.

As per the researchers, understanding LEC and the machinery of snRNA transcription may also have implications for the treatment of disease. For example, it may open the door to fresh approaches for treating diseases associated with defective snRNA function and splicing. These may include,

  • Spinal muscular atrophy
  • Prader-Willi syndrome

The treatments may also help with attacking cancer cells, whose proteins may also undergo splicing.

Researchers have spent decades studying the factors, facilitating transcription. For your information, it is the process by which information encoded in DNA is converted into various forms of RNA including messenger RNA.

This mRNA carries protein-making instructions, and snRNAs partner with proteins to form small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). Particularly, the researchers focused their work on a family of factors called ELL (for Eleven-nineteen lysine-rich leukemia gene). It speeds up the rate at which genes are expressed to help the transcription process along.

LEC as a complex containing ELL

Previously, the researchers carried out experiments at fruit flies and identified the Little Elongation Complex as a complex that contains ELL. However, they were unable to locate the exact molecular properties of LEC and its subunits.

In the present study, the researchers first, using fruit fly (Drosophila) cells, sequenced the entire genome to track where LEC went. They were able to show it sought out places in the genome that encode snRNAs. SnRNAs are small RNA molecules, involved in splicing.

It is a molecular process that edits RNAs, ensuring that the right sequences of genetic information make it into the final RNA products of transcription.

The research team then began to squeeze the LEC. They removed certain components of the complex to see if they could determine each component’s function. It was found that without one of the LEC components, the complex fell apart and the snRNA transcription machinery didn’t work.


The research team knew which subunit of LEC was doing this job. It was required from the beginning to the end of transcription. The team confirmed the same central and unusual “Swiss Army knife” role of LEC in human cells. They further revealed that it is required for the initiation and elongation phases of snRNA transcription.

According to the researchers, there could be many practical applications regarding the study. However, detail research with more information about LEC is required. How does the complex get there and how does it do its job. These are all the questions that are unanswered and future studies are anticipated to present their plausible solutions.


The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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