Amy E Pasquinelli

University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, United States

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Publications (54)759.56 Total impact

  • Vanessa Mondol · Byoung Chan Ahn · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small noncoding RNAs that use partial base-pairing to recognize and regulate the expression of messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Mature miRNAs arise from longer primary transcripts (pri-miRNAs) that are processed to a shorter hairpin precursor miRNA (pre-miRNA) by the Microprocessor complex. In Caenorhabditis elegans the primary let-7 (pri-let-7) transcript undergoes trans-splicing, where pri-let-7 is cleaved at a 3' splice site and the splice-leader-1 (SL1) sequence is appended at the 5' end. Here we investigate the role of this splicing event in the biogenesis of let-7 miRNA. We hypothesized that splicing changes the secondary structure of the pri-let-7 transcript, creating a more favorable substrate for recognition by the Microprocessor. Supporting this idea, we detected conspicuous structural differences between unspliced and SL1-spliced pri-let-7 transcripts using in vitro ribonuclease (RNase) assays. Through the generation of transgenic worm strains, we found that the RNA secondary structure produced by splicing, as opposed to the act of splicing itself, optimizes processing of pri-let-7 by the Microprocessor in vivo. We also observed that the endogenous spliced, but not the unspliced, pri-let-7 transcripts bind to the Microprocessor and accumulate upon its depletion. We conclude that splicing is a key step in generating pri-let-7 transcripts with a structure that enables downstream processing events to produce appropriate levels of mature let-7. © 2015 Mondol et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society.
    RNA 06/2015; 21(8). DOI:10.1261/rna.052118.115 · 4.62 Impact Factor
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    Amy E Pasquinelli
    RNA 04/2015; 21(4):709-10. DOI:10.1261/rna.049981.115 · 4.62 Impact Factor
  • Priscilla M Van Wynsberghe · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: Two recent studies by Van Wynsberghe et al. and Perales et al. in the nematode C. elegans have demonstrated a new function of the Period protein homolog LIN-42 in negatively regulating microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis at the transcriptional level. LIN-42 is a complex gene with 4 isoforms and multiple functions including the regulation of molting, developmental timing and entry into dauer. These recent studies uncover an additional function of LIN-42 as a negative regulator of miRNA transcription. Approximately 95% of miRNAs present in eggs and 33% of miRNAs present in L4 stage worms were upregulated in lin-42 mutant worms relative to wild type (WT) worms, suggesting that LIN-42 globally regulates miRNA biogenesis. Expression from both a let-7 miRNA and a lin-4 miRNA transcriptional reporter were enhanced in the absence of lin-42. Additionally, chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) of late larval stage worms showed that LIN-42 bound the let-7 promoter, suggesting that LIN-42 affects mature miRNA levels by inhibiting their transcription. In addition to miRNAs, LIN-42 also predominantly bound to the promoters of many diverse protein-coding genes. These findings support the action of LIN-42 at multiple points within the heterochronic and other regulatory pathways to impact a multitude of functions including developmental timing.
    12/2014; 3(4):e974453. DOI:10.4161/21624054.2014.974453
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression in many multicellular organisms. They are encoded in the genome and transcribed into primary (pri-) miRNAs before two processing steps that ultimately produce the mature miRNA. In order to generate the appropriate amount of a particular miRNA in the correct location at the correct time, proper regulation of miRNA biogenesis is essential. Here we identify the Period protein homolog LIN-42 as a new regulator of miRNA biogenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans. We mapped a spontaneous suppressor of the normally lethal let-7(n2853) allele to the lin-42 gene. Mutations in this allele (ap201) or a second lin-42 allele (n1089) caused increased mature let-7 miRNA levels at most time points when mature let-7 miRNA is normally expressed. Levels of pri-let-7 and a let-7 transcriptional reporter were also increased in lin-42(n1089) worms. These results indicate that LIN-42 normally represses pri-let-7 transcription and thus the accumulation of let-7 miRNA. This inhibition is not specific to let-7, as pri- and mature levels of lin-4 and miR-35 were also increased in lin-42 mutants. Furthermore, small RNA-seq analysis showed widespread increases in the levels of mature miRNAs in lin-42 mutants. Thus, we propose that the period protein homolog LIN-42 is a global regulator of miRNA biogenesis.
    Developmental Biology 06/2014; 390(2). DOI:10.1016/j.ydbio.2014.03.017 · 3.64 Impact Factor
  • Sarah Azoubel Lima · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that direct posttranscriptional regulation of specific target genes. Since their discovery in Caenorhabditis elegans, they have been associated with the control of virtually all biological processes and are known to play major roles in development and cellular homeostasis. Yet the biological roles of most miRNAs remain to be fully known. Furthermore, the precise rules by which miRNAs recognize their targets and mediate gene silencing are still unclear. Systematic identification of miRNAs and of the RNAs they regulate is essential to close these knowledge gaps. Studies in C. elegans have been instrumental not only in the discovery phase of miRNA biology but also in the elucidation of mechanisms regulating miRNA expression, target recognition and regulation. This chapter highlights some of the main challenges still present in the field, while introducing the major studies and methods used to find miRNAs and their targets in the worm.
    Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 01/2014; 825:431-50. DOI:10.1007/978-1-4939-1221-6_12 · 2.01 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mass spectrometry (MS)-based shotgun proteomics is an enabling technology for the study of C. elegans proteins. When coupled with co-immunoprecipitation (CoIP), new interactions and functions among proteins can be discovered. We provide a general background on protein complexes and methods for their analysis, along with the lifecycle and interaction types of proteins that ultimately define the identifiable components of protein complexes. We highlight traditional biochemical methods to evaluate whether the complexes are sufficiently pure and abundant for analysis with shotgun proteomics. We present two CoIP-MS case studies of protein complexes from C. elegans, using both endogenous and fusion protein antibodies to illustrate the important aspects of their analyses. We discuss results from mass spectrometers with differences in mass accuracy and resolution, along with the relevant information that can be extracted from the data generated, such as protein relative abundance, post-translational modifications, and identification confidence. Finally, we illustrate how comparative analysis can reveal candidate binding partners for biological follow-up and validation. This chapter should act as a complement and extension to the WormBook chapter Biochemistry and molecular biology, which describes tandem affinity purification (TAP) of protein complexes for analysis by mass spectrometry.
  • Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: The let-7 miRNA (microRNA) is an essential regulator of development from nematode worms to humans. Altered expression of let-7 results in larval arrest or lethality in Caenorhabditis elegans. Likewise, under- or over-expression of let-7 in human cells can result in cellular overproliferation or halted cell division respectively. Thus the biogenesis of this critical miRNA is controlled at multiple levels. An unexpected mechanism for regulating the initial processing of let-7 was recently found to involve the let-7 miRNA itself. The mature let-7 miRNA along with its effector protein, Argonaute, were shown to bind to a site in the primary transcripts produced by the let-7 gene. This interaction enhances processing through a novel auto-regulatory feedback loop. This discovery highlights a new role for the miRNA complex in regulating miRNA biogenesis and enriches the classes of RNAs targeted by Argonaute.
    Biochemical Society Transactions 08/2013; 41(4):821-4. DOI:10.1042/BST20130020 · 3.24 Impact Factor
  • James P Broughton · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: The identification of endogenous targets remains an important challenge in understanding microRNA (miRNA) function. Past approaches using in silico methods and reporter constructs lack biological context that may enhance or inhibit target recognition. To address these limitations, several labs have utilized crosslinking and immunoprecipitation (CLIP) of Argonaute (Ago) proteins to identify miRNA targets. Recently, the Ule Lab introduced individual-nucleotide resolution CLIP (iCLIP) to increase the sensitivity of identifying protein-RNA interaction sites. Here we adapt the iCLIP protocol for use in Caenorhabditis elegans to identify endogenous sites targeted by the worm Argonaute (ALG-1) primarily responsible for miRNA function.
    Methods 04/2013; DOI:10.1016/j.ymeth.2013.03.033 · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Author Summary In the past decade, microRNAs (miRNAs) have become recognized as key regulators of gene expression in many biological pathways. These small, non-coding RNAs target specific protein-coding genes for repression. The specificity is mediated by partial base-pairing interactions between the 22 nucleotide miRNA and sequences in the target messenger RNA (mRNA). The use of imperfect base-pairing means that a single miRNA can regulate many different mRNAs, but it also means that identifying these targets is not straightforward. One of the first discovered miRNAs, let-7, generally promotes cellular differentiation pathways through a repertoire of targets that is yet to be fully described. Here we utilized molecular and genetic approaches to identify biologically relevant targets of the let-7 miRNA in Caenorhabditis elegans. Our analyses indicate that let-7 regulates a large cast of genes, both directly and indirectly. Loss of let-7 activity in C. elegans results in multiple developmental abnormalities and, ultimately, death. We uncovered new targets of let-7 that contribute to these phenotypes when they fail to be properly regulated. Given the highly conserved nature of let-7 from worms to humans, our studies highlight new genes and pathways potentially under let-7 regulation across species.
    PLoS Genetics 03/2013; 9(3):e1003353. DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003353 · 8.17 Impact Factor
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    Katlin B Massirer · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: A recent study by Massirer et al. in the nematode C. elegans has shown that a family of microRNAs (miRNAs), miR-35-41, regulates the efficiency of RNA interference (RNAi), revealing a new connection between these small RNA pathways. In this commentary, we discuss the potential mechanisms for cross regulation in the miRNA and RNAi pathways and the implications for gene expression. While miRNAs are genetically encoded, the small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that function in RNAi can originate from processing of exogenous dsRNA (exo-RNAi) or from the production of siRNAs from endogenous transcripts (endo-RNAi). These small RNA pathways involve Dicer and Argonaute proteins and typically use antisense base pairing to target mRNAs for downregulated expression. The discovery that loss of miR-35-41 results in enhanced exo-RNAi sensitivity and reduced endo-RNAi effectiveness suggests that these miRNAs normally help balance the RNAi pathways. The effect of mir-35-41 on RNAi is largely through lin-35, the C. elegans homolog of the tumor suppressor Retinoblastoma (Rb) gene. lin-35/Rb previously has been shown to regulate RNAi sensitivity through unclear mechanisms and the new finding that accumulation of LIN-35/Rb protein is dependent on miR-35-41 adds another layer of complexity to this process. The utilization of miRNAs to control the responsiveness of RNAi exemplifies the cross-regulation embedded in small RNA-directed pathways.
    01/2013; 2(1):e21835. DOI:10.4161/worm.21835
  • Zoya S Kai · Emily F Finnegan · Stacey Huang · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: The let-7 microRNA (miRNA) is highly conserved across animal phyla and generally regulates cellular differentiation and developmental timing pathways. In C. elegans, the mature let-7 miRNA starts to accumulate in the last stages of larval development where it directs cellular differentiation programs required for adult fates. Here we show that expression of the let-7 gene in C. elegans is under complex transcriptional control. The onset of let-7 transcription begins as early as the first larval stage in some tissues, and as late as the third larval stage in others, and is abrogated at the gravid adult stage. Transcription from two different start sites in the let-7 promoter oscillates during each larval stage. We show that transcription is regulated by two distinct cis-elements in the promoter of let-7, the previously described temporal regulatory element (TRE), and a novel element downstream of the TRE that we have named the let-7 transcription element (LTE). These elements play distinct and redundant roles in regulating let-7 expression in specific tissues. In the absence of the TRE and LTE, transcription of let-7 is undetectable and worms exhibit the lethal phenotype characteristic of let-7 null mutants. We also identify several genes that affect the transcription of let-7 generally and tissue-specifically. Overall, spatio-temporal regulation of let-7 transcription is orchestrated by multiple cis- and trans-acting factors to ensure appropriate expression of this essential miRNA during worm development.
    Developmental Biology 11/2012; 374(1). DOI:10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.11.021 · 3.64 Impact Factor
  • Emily F Finnegan · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) function as 21-24 nucleotide guide RNAs that use partial base-pairing to recognize target messenger RNAs and repress their expression. As a large fraction of protein-coding genes are under miRNA control, production of the appropriate level of specific miRNAs at the right time and in the right place is integral to most gene regulatory pathways. MiRNA biogenesis initiates with transcription, followed by multiple processing steps to produce the mature miRNA. Every step of miRNA production is subject to regulation and disruption of these control mechanisms has been linked to numerous human diseases, where the balance between the expression of miRNAs and their targets becomes distorted. Here we review the basic steps of miRNA biogenesis and describe the various factors that control miRNA transcription, processing, and stability in animal cells. The tremendous effort put into producing the appropriate type and level of specific miRNAs underscores the critical role of these small RNAs in gene regulation.
    Critical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 11/2012; 48(1). DOI:10.3109/10409238.2012.738643 · 5.81 Impact Factor
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    Amy E Pasquinelli
    The EMBO Journal 09/2012; 31(19):3790-1. DOI:10.1038/emboj.2012.254 · 10.75 Impact Factor
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    Dimitrios G Zisoulis · Zoya S Kai · Roger K Chang · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) comprise a large family of small RNA molecules that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression in many biological pathways. Most miRNAs are derived from long primary transcripts that undergo processing by Drosha to produce ~65-nucleotide precursors that are then cleaved by Dicer, resulting in the mature 22-nucleotide forms. Serving as guides in Argonaute protein complexes, mature miRNAs use imperfect base pairing to recognize sequences in messenger RNA transcripts, leading to translational repression and destabilization of the target messenger RNAs. Here we show that the miRNA complex also targets and regulates non-coding RNAs that serve as substrates for the miRNA-processing pathway. We found that the Argonaute protein in Caenorhabditis elegans, ALG-1, binds to a specific site at the 3′ end of let-7 miRNA primary transcripts and promotes downstream processing events. This interaction is mediated by mature let-7 miRNA through a conserved complementary site in its own primary transcript, thus creating a positive-feedback loop. We further show that ALG-1 associates with let-7 primary transcripts in nuclear fractions. Argonaute also binds let-7 primary transcripts in human cells, demonstrating that the miRNA pathway targets non-coding RNAs in addition to protein-coding messenger RNAs across species. Moreover, our studies in C. elegans reveal a novel role for Argonaute in promoting biogenesis of a targeted transcript, expanding the functions of the miRNA pathway in gene regulation. This discovery of autoregulation of let-7 biogenesis establishes a new mechanism for controlling miRNA expression.
    Nature 06/2012; 486(7404):541-4. DOI:10.1038/nature11134 · 42.35 Impact Factor
  • Zisoulis DG · Kai ZS · Chang RK · Pasquinelli AE
    The 17th Annual Meeting of the RNA Society, Ann Arbor, MI; 06/2012
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    Antti P Aalto · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: During the past decade, it has become evident that small non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) participate in widespread and essential regulatory mechanisms in most eukaryotic cells. Novel classes of small RNAs, their biogenesis pathways and cellular effects are continuously being described, and new properties of already established ncRNAs are still being discovered. As the list of small RNA molecules and their roles becomes more and more extensive, one can get lost in the midst of new information. In this review, we attempt to bring order to the small ncRNA transcriptome by covering some of the major milestones of recent years. We go through many of the new properties that have been attributed to already familiar RNA molecules, and introduce some of the more recent novel classes of tiny ncRNAs.
    Current opinion in cell biology 03/2012; 24(3):333-40. DOI:10.1016/j.ceb.2012.03.006 · 8.74 Impact Factor
  • Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as key gene regulators in diverse biological pathways. These small non-coding RNAs bind to target sequences in mRNAs, typically resulting in repressed gene expression. Several methods are now available for identifying miRNA target sites, but the mere presence of an miRNA-binding site is insufficient for predicting target regulation. Regulation of targets by miRNAs is subject to various levels of control, and recent developments have presented a new twist; targets can reciprocally control the level and function of miRNAs. This mutual regulation of miRNAs and target genes is challenging our understanding of the gene-regulatory role of miRNAs in vivo and has important implications for the use of these RNAs in therapeutic settings.
    Nature Reviews Genetics 03/2012; 13(4):271-82. DOI:10.1038/nrg3162 · 39.79 Impact Factor
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    Katlin B Massirer · Saida G Perez · Vanessa Mondol · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: RNA interference (RNAi) utilizes small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to direct silencing of specific genes through transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms. The siRNA guides can originate from exogenous (exo-RNAi) or natural endogenous (endo-RNAi) sources of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). In Caenorhabditis elegans, inactivation of genes that function in the endo-RNAi pathway can result in enhanced silencing of genes targeted by siRNAs from exogenous sources, indicating cross-regulation between the pathways. Here we show that members of another small RNA pathway, the mir-35-41 cluster of microRNAs (miRNAs) can regulate RNAi. In worms lacking miR-35-41, there is reduced expression of lin-35/Rb, the C. elegans homolog of the tumor suppressor Retinoblastoma gene, previously shown to regulate RNAi responsiveness. Genome-wide microarray analyses show that targets of endo-siRNAs are up-regulated in mir-35-41 mutants, a phenotype also displayed by lin-35/Rb mutants. Furthermore, overexpression of lin-35/Rb specifically rescues the RNAi hypersensitivity of mir-35-41 mutants. Although the mir-35-41 miRNAs appear to be exclusively expressed in germline and embryos, their effect on RNAi sensitivity is transmitted to multiple tissues and stages of development. Additionally, we demonstrate that maternal contribution of miR-35-41 or lin-35/Rb is sufficient to reduce RNAi effectiveness in progeny worms. Our results reveal that miRNAs can broadly regulate other small RNA pathways and, thus, have far reaching effects on gene expression beyond directly targeting specific mRNAs.
    PLoS Genetics 03/2012; 8(3):e1002536. DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002536 · 8.17 Impact Factor
  • Amy E Pasquinelli
    Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 02/2012; 19(2):133-4. DOI:10.1038/nsmb.2236 · 13.31 Impact Factor
  • Vanessa Mondol · Amy E Pasquinelli
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    ABSTRACT: Noncoding RNAs have emerged as an integral part of posttranscriptional gene regulation. Among that class of RNAs are the microRNAs (miRNAs), which posttranscriptionally regulate target mRNAs containing complementary sequences. The broad presence of miRNAs in lower eukaryotes, plants, and mammals highlights their importance throughout evolution. MiRNAs have been shown to regulate many pathways, including development, and disruption of miRNA function can lead to disease (Ivey and Srivastava, 2010; Jiang et al., 2009). Although the first miRNA genes were discovered in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, almost 20 years ago, the field of miRNA research began when they were found in multiple organisms a little over a decade ago (Lagos-Quintana et al., 2001; Lau et al., 2001; Lee and Ambros, 2001; Lee et al., 1993; Pasquinelli et al., 2000; Wightman et al., 1993). Here, we review one of the first characterized miRNAs, let-7, and describe its role in development and the intricacies of its biogenesis and function.
    Current Topics in Developmental Biology 01/2012; 99:1-30. DOI:10.1016/B978-0-12-387038-4.00001-X · 4.21 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

12k Citations
759.56 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2003–2014
    • University of California, San Diego
      • • Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM)
      • • Section of Molecular Biology
      San Diego, California, United States
    • Massachusetts General Hospital
      • Molecular Biology Laboratory
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2010
    • California Stem Cell
      Irvine, California, United States
  • 2000–2002
    • Harvard Medical School
      • Department of Genetics
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States