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Engineered viral RNA decay intermediates to assess XRN1-mediated decay

Russo, Joseph, Mundell, Cary T., Charley, Phillida A., Wilusz, Carol, Wilusz, Jeffrey
Methods 2019 v.155 pp. 116-123
experimental design, gels, gene expression, homeostasis, messenger RNA, polyacrylamide, transcription (genetics), transcriptome
Both RNA synthesis and decay must be balanced within a cell to achieve proper gene expression. Additionally, modulation of RNA decay specifically offers the cell an opportunity to rapidly reshape the transcriptome in response to specific stimuli or cues. Therefore, it is critical to understand the underlying mechanisms through which RNA decay contribute to gene expression homeostasis. Cell-free reconstitution approaches have been used successfully to reveal mechanisms associated with numerous post-transcriptional RNA processes. Historically, it has been difficult to examine all aspects of RNA decay in such an in vitro setting due, in part, to limitations on the ability to resolve larger RNAs through denaturing polyacrylamide gels. Thus, in vitro systems to study RNA decay rely on smaller, less biologically relevant RNA fragments. Herein, we present an approach to more confidently examine RNA decay parameters of large mRNA size transcripts through the inclusion of an engineered XRN1-resistant reporter RNA (xrRNA). By placing a 67 nucleotide xrRNA near the 3′ end of any in vitro transcribed RNA with variable size or sequence context, investigators can observe the accumulation of the xrRNA as a readout of exoribonuclease-mediated 5′-3′ decay. This approach may allow in vitro RNA decay assays to include full biologically relevant mRNA/mRNPs, extending their utility and allow improved experimental design considerations to promote biologically relevant outcomes.