Research Groups


RNA structure impacts interaction with proteins

July 2019. RNA is involved in many cellular processes such as control of gene expression, catalysis of various substrates, scaffolding of complex assemblies, and molecular chaperoning. The combination of high-throughput sequencing and in vivo crosslinking approaches gradually enables scientists to uncover of the complex interdependence between the cellular transcriptome and the proteome.

The molecular determinants governing interactions in protein-RNA networks are however not well understood yet. Scientists from Frankfurt and Barcelona therefore teamed up to investigate the relationship between the structure of an RNA and its ability to interact with proteins.

Using a combination of in silico, in vitro and in vivo experiments, the groups of Martin Vabulas and Gian Gaetano Tartaglia found that the amount of double-stranded regions in an RNA correlates with the number of protein contacts. This relationship — which they called "structure-driven protein interactivity" — allows classification of RNA types, plays a role in gene regulation and could have implications for the formation of phase-separated ribonucleoprotein assemblies. The team validated their hypothesis by showing that a highly structured RNA can rearrange the composition of a protein aggregate. Their work, published on 19 July 2019 in the journal Nature Communications, also indicates that the tendency of proteins to phase-separate is reduced by interactions with specific RNAs.



Natalia Sanchez de Groot, Alexandros Armaos, Ricardo Graña-Montes, Marion Alriquet, Giulia Calloni, Martin Vabulas* & Gian Gaetano Tartaglia* (2019) RNA structure drives interaction with proteins. Nat Commun 10: 3246.