Genome-Wide Double-Stranded RNA Sequencing Reveals the Functional Significance of Base-Paired RNAs in Arabidopsis


The functional structure of all biologically active molecules is dependent on intra- and inter-molecular interactions. This is especially evident for RNA molecules whose functionality, maturation, and regulation require formation of correct secondary structure through encoded base-pairing interactions. Unfortunately, intra- and inter-molecular base-pairing information is lacking for most RNAs. Here, we marry classical nuclease-based structure mapping techniques with high-throughput sequencing technology to interrogate all base-paired RNA in Arabidopsis thaliana and identify ∼200 new small (sm)RNA–producing substrates of RNA–DEPENDENT RNA POLYMERASE6. Our comprehensive analysis of paired RNAs reveals conserved functionality within introns and both 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions (UTRs) of mRNAs, as well as a novel population of functional RNAs, many of which are the precursors of smRNAs. Finally, we identify intra-molecular base-pairing interactions to produce a genome-wide collection of RNA secondary structure models. Although our methodology reveals the pairing status of RNA molecules in the absence of cellular proteins, previous studies have demonstrated that structural information obtained for RNAs in solution accurately reflects their structure in ribonucleoprotein complexes. Furthermore, our identification of RNA–DEPENDENT RNA POLYMERASE6 substrates and conserved functional RNA domains within introns and both 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions (UTRs) of mRNAs using this approach strongly suggests that RNA molecules are correctly folded into their secondary structure in solution. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of base-paired RNAs in eukaryotes and present an approach that should be widely applicable for the analysis of this key structural feature of RNA.

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