Extensive variation in the 5′-UTR of Dicer mRNAs influences translational efficiency
The Dicer enzyme is a key component of the RNA interference pathway and also responsible for the processing of micro RNAs, non-coding RNA molecules which regulate the activity of mRNAs by antisense base pairing. Little is known about the structure and regulation of human Dicer mRNA. A comprehensive characterization of Dicer 5'-untranslated region (5'-UTR) RNA structure revealed important diversity within human Dicer mRNA transcripts. Three exon 1 variants were defined, some of which exhibited very restricted patterns of tissue distribution. A number of alternatively spliced 5'-leader exons were also noted, revealing the potential for complex post-transcriptional regulation. Surprisingly, this diversity all occurred within the 5'-UTR of Dicer mRNAs and did not affect the coding region. The Dicer mRNA 5'-UTR variants had profound effects on translational efficiency both in vitro and in transiently transfected cells. A number of major Dicer RNA species are inefficient substrates for the translational machinery.