Snu40p and Snu66p are required for spliceosome activation at suboptimal temperatures
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In addressing the pre-mRNA substrate, the splicing machinery requires rearrangement of multiple RNA and protein components. The classical model of spliceosome formation begins with the U1 snRNA recognition of the 5" splice site and U2 snRNP interaction with the branch point. This process is followed by the engagement of a pre-assembled U4/U6·U5 tri-snRNP to form the A2-1 complex. The spliceosome is subsequently activated through a number of structural rearrangements. Among these is the unwinding of the U4/U6 intermolecular helix by the tri-snRNP component Brr2p. While numerous protein components of the tri-snRNP have been identified, the function of many of these remain unknown. The nonessential Snu66p (U4/U6·U5-110K in humans) stably associates only with the U4/U6·U5 tri-snRNP while the similarly nonessential Snu40p (U5-52K in humans) associates exclusively with the U5 snRNP. To understand why two non-essential pre-mRNA splicing factors have been so well conserved through great evolutionary distances, we examined their roles in the assembly and function of the tri-snRNP. Removal of SNU40 alone does not affect snRNP levels, however deletion of SNU66 results in reduced levels of tri-snRNP. The U4/U6·U5 snRNPs in [Delta]snu66 cells are resistant to the ATP-dependent U4/U6 unwinding by Brr2p, and profound U4/U6 accumulation occurs at reduced temperatures. Remarkably, subsequent removal of SNU40 in a [Delta]snu66 strain bypasses the tri-snRNP formation defect while unwinding of U4/U6 remains defective. Additional investigation revealed that Prp6p, another tri-snRNP protein, is destabilized from the complex. Based upon this data in total, I present a model in which Snu40p and Snu66p interact sequentially with Prp6p to maintain directionality for proper biogenesis of the tri-snRNP. Further, the U4/U6 unwinding defect of the double mutant should theoretically arrest the A2-1 spliceosome. Indeed, native gel analysis confirms the buildup of a large complex later determined to be A2-1. I have purified this complex, functionally tested its catalytic viability, and identified its components via mass spectrometry. This is the first full characterization of the A2-1 precatalytic spliceosome complex in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.