Box C/D and H/ACA RNPs are essential ribonucleoprotein particles that are found throughout both eukaryotes [small nucleolar RNPs (snoRNPs)] and archaea [snoRNP-like complexes (sRNPs)]. These complexes catalyze the site-specific pseudouridylation and most of the methylation of ribosomal RNA (rRNA). The numerous modifications, which are clustered in functionally important regions of the rRNA, are important for rRNA folding and ribosome function. The RNA component of the complexes [small nucleolar RNA (snoRNA) or small RNA (sRNA)] functions in substrate binding by base pairing with the target site and as a scaffold coordinating the organization of the complex. In eukaryotes, a subset of snoRNPs do not catalyze modification but, through base pairing to the rRNA or flanking precursor sequences, direct pre-rRNA folding and are essential for rRNA processing. In the last few years there have been significant advances in our understanding of the structure of archaeal sRNPs. High resolution structures of the archaeal C/D and H/ACA sRNPs have not only provided a detailed understanding of the molecular architecture of these complexes but also produced key insights into substrate binding and product release. In both cases, this is mediated by significant movement in the complexes. Advances have also been made in our knowledge of snoRNP recruitment and release from pre-ribosome complexes in eukaryotes. New snoRNA–rRNA interactions have been documented, and the roles of RNA helicases in releasing snoRNP complexes from the rRNA have been described. WIREs RNA 2012, 3:397–414. doi: 10.1002/wrna.117
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