Determinants of RNA binding and translational repression by the Bicaudal-C regulatory protein [Developmental Biology]

January 29th, 2014 by Zhang, Y., Park, S., Blaser, S., Sheets, M. D.

Bicaudal-C (Bic-C) RNA binding proteins function as important translational repressors in multiple biological contexts within metazoans. However, their RNA binding sites are unknown. We recently demonstrated that Bicaudal-C (Bic-C) functions in spatially regulated translational repression of the xCR1 mRNA during Xenopus development. This repression contributes to normal development by confining the xCR1 protein, a regulator of key signaling pathways to specific cells of the embryo. In this report we combined biochemical approaches with in vivo mRNA reporter assays to define the minimal Bic-C target site within the xCR1 mRNA. This 32-nucleotide Bic-C target site is predicted to fold into a stem-loop secondary structure. Mutational analyses provided evidence that this stem-loop structure is important for Bic-C binding. The Bic-C target site was sufficient for Bic-C mediated repression in vivo. Thus, we describe the first RNA binding site for a Bic-C protein. This identification provides an important step toward understanding the mechanisms by which evolutionarily conserved Bic-C proteins control cellular function in metazoans.