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Synergistic interactions between Cajal bodies and the miRNA processing machinery

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Cajal bodies (CBs) are subnuclear domains involved in the formation of ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) including small nuclear RNPs (snRNPs). CBs associate with specific gene loci, which impacts expression and provides a platform for the biogenesis of the nascent transcripts emanating from these genes. Here we report that CBs can associate with the C19MC microRNA (miRNA) gene cluster, which suggests a role for CBs in the biogenesis of animal miRNAs. The machinery involved in the formation of miRNAs includes the Drosha/DGCR8 complex, which processes primary-miRNA to precursor miRNA. Further processing of precursor miRNA by Dicer and other components generates mature miRNA. To test if CBs influence the expression and formation of miRNAs, we examined two representative miRNAs (miR-520 h and let-7a) in conditions that disrupt CBs. CB disruption correlates with alterations in the level of primary and mature miRNA and the let-7a mRNA target, HMGA2. We have also found that the processing of some small CB-specific RNAs (scaRNAs) is directly mediated by the Drosha/DGCR8 complex. ScaRNAs form scaRNPs, which play an important role in snRNP formation. Collectively, our results demonstrate that CBs and the miRNA processing machinery functionally interact and together contribute to the biogenesis of miRNAs and snRNPs.