Recent systems studies of gene expression have begun to dissect the layers of regulation that underlie the eukaryotic transcriptome, the combined consequence of transcriptional and posttranscriptional events. Among the regulatory layers of the transcriptome are those of the ribonome, a highly dynamic environment of ribonucleoproteins in which RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), noncoding regulatory RNAs (ncRNAs) and messenger RNAs (mRNAs) interact. While multiple mRNAs are coordinated together in groups within the ribonome of a eukaryotic cell, each individual type of mRNA consists of multiple copies, each of which has an opportunity to be a member of more than one modular group termed a posttranscriptional RNA operon or regulon (PTRO). The mRNAs associated with each PTRO encode functionally related proteins and are coordinated at the levels of RNA stability and translation by the actions of the specific RBPs and noncoding regulatory RNAs. This article examines the methods that led to the elucidation of PTROs and the coordinating mechanisms that appear to regulate the RNA components of PTROs. Moreover, the article considers the characteristics of the dynamic systems that drive PTROs and how mRNA components are bound collectively in physical ‘states’ to respond to cellular perturbations and diseases. In conclusion, these studies have challenged the extent to which cellular mRNA abundance can inform investigators of the functional status of a biological system. We argue that understanding the ribonome has greater potential for illuminating the underlying coordination principles of growth, differentiation, and disease. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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