Analysis of the molecular composition of Ro ribonucleoprotein complexes

Identification of novel Y RNA-binding proteins


G. Steiner, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine III, and Institute of Biochemistry, University of Vienna, Waehringer Guertel 18–20, A-1090 Vienna, Austria. Fax: + 431 40400 4306, Tel.: + 431 40400 ex. 4301 or 2121, E-mail:


Human Ro ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) are composed of one of the four small Y RNAs and at least two proteins, Ro60 and La; association of additional proteins including the Ro52 protein and calreticulin has been suggested, but clear-cut evidence is still lacking. Partial purification of Ro RNPs from HeLa S100 extracts allowed characterization of several subpopulations of Ro RNPs with estimated molecular masses of between 150 and 550 kDa. The majority of these complexes contained Ro60 and La, whereas only a small proportion of Ro52 appeared to be associated with Ro RNPs. To identify novel Y RNA-associated proteins in vitro, binding of cytoplasmic proteins to biotinylated Y RNAs was investigated. In these reconstitution experiments, several proteins with estimated molecular masses of 80, 68, 65, 62, 60 and 53 kDa, the latter two being immunologically distinct from Ro60 and Ro52, respectively, appeared to bind specifically to Y RNAs. Furthermore, autoantibodies to these proteins were found in sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. The proteins bound preferentially to Y1 and Y3 RNA but, with the exception of the 53-kDa protein, only weakly to Y4 RNA and not at all to Y5 RNA. Coprecipitation of the 80, 68, 65, and 53-kDa proteins by antibodies to Ro60 and La was observed, suggesting that at least a proportion of the novel proteins may reside on the same particles as La and/or Ro60. Finally, the binding sites for these proteins on Y1 RNA were clearly distinct from the Ro60-binding site involving a portion of the large central loop 2, which was found to be indispensable for binding of the 80, 68, 65 and 53-kDa proteins, as well as the stem 3–loop 3 and stem 2–loop 1 regions. Interestingly, truncation of the La-binding site resulted in decreased binding of the novel proteins (but not of Ro60), indicating La to be required for efficient association. Taken together, these results suggest the existence of further subpopulations of Ro RNPs or Y RNPs, consistent with the heterogeneous characteristics observed for these particles in the biochemical fractionation experiments.