Background: Immune cells have to change their gene expression patterns dynamically in response to external stimuli such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The gene expression is regulated at multiple steps in eukaryotic cells, in which control of RNA levels at both the transcriptional level and the post-transcriptional level plays important role. Impairment of the control leads to aberrant immune responses such as excessive or impaired production of cytokines. However, genome-wide studies focusing on the post-transcriptional control were relatively rare until recently. Moreover, several RNA cis elements and RNA-binding proteins have been found to be involved in the process, but our general understanding remains poor, partly because identification of regulatory RNA motifs is very challenging in spite of its importance. We took advantage of genome-wide measurement of RNA degradation in combination with estimation of degradation kinetics by qualitative approach, and performed de novo prediction of RNA sequence and structure motifs. Methods: To classify genes by their RNA degradation kinetics, we first measured RNA degradation time course in mouse dendritic cells after LPS stimulation and the time courses were clustered to estimate degradation kinetics and to find patterns in the kinetics. Then genes were clustered by their similarity in degradation kinetics patterns. The 3' UTR sequences of a cluster was subjected to de novo sequence or structure motif prediction. Results: The quick degradation kinetics was found to be strongly associated with lower gene expression level, immediate regulation (both induction and repression) of gene expression level, and longer 3' UTR length. De novo sequence motif prediction found AU-rich element-like and TTP-binding sequence-like motifs which are enriched in quickly degrading genes. De novo structure motif prediction found a known functional motif, namely stem-loop structure containing sequence bound by RNA-binding protein Roquin and Regnase-1, as well as unknown motifs. Conclusions: The current study indicated that degradation kinetics patterns lead to classification different from that by gene expression and the differential classification facilitates identification of functional motifs. Identification of novel motif candidates implied post-transcriptional controls different from that by known pairs of RNA-binding protein and RNA motif.
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