bims-micpro Biomed News
on Discovery and characterization of microproteins
Issue of 2022‒01‒23
two papers selected by
Thomas Farid Martínez
University of California, Irvine

  1. Brief Bioinform. 2022 Jan 17. pii: bbab549. [Epub ahead of print]
      Small proteins encoded by short open reading frames (ORFs) with 50 codons or fewer are emerging as an important class of cellular macromolecules in diverse organisms. However, they often evade detection by proteomics or in silico methods. Ribosome profiling (Ribo-seq) has revealed widespread translation in genomic regions previously thought to be non-coding, driving the development of ORF detection tools using Ribo-seq data. However, only a handful of tools have been designed for bacteria, and these have not yet been systematically compared. Here, we aimed to identify tools that use Ribo-seq data to correctly determine the translational status of annotated bacterial ORFs and also discover novel translated regions with high sensitivity. To this end, we generated a large set of annotated ORFs from four diverse bacterial organisms, manually labeled for their translation status based on Ribo-seq data, which are available for future benchmarking studies. This set was used to investigate the predictive performance of seven Ribo-seq-based ORF detection tools (REPARATION_blast, DeepRibo, Ribo-TISH, PRICE, smORFer, ribotricer and SPECtre), as well as IRSOM, which uses coding potential and RNA-seq coverage only. DeepRibo and REPARATION_blast robustly predicted translated ORFs, including sORFs, with no significant difference for ORFs in close proximity to other genes versus stand-alone genes. However, no tool predicted a set of novel, experimentally verified sORFs with high sensitivity. Start codon predictions with smORFer show the value of initiation site profiling data to further improve the sensitivity of ORF prediction tools in bacteria. Overall, we find that bacterial tools perform well for sORF detection, although there is potential for improving their performance, applicability, usability and reproducibility.
    Keywords:  Ribo-seq; bacteria; benchmark; ribosome profiling; small proteins
  2. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2021 ;9 747667
      Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are regulatory molecules which have been traditionally considered as "non-coding". Strikingly, recent evidence has demonstrated that many non-coding regions, including lncRNAs, do in fact contain small-open reading frames that code for small proteins that have been called microproteins. Only a few of them have been characterized so far, but they display key functions in a wide variety of cellular processes. Here, we show that TUNAR lncRNA encodes an evolutionarily conserved microprotein expressed in the nervous system that we have named pTUNAR. pTUNAR deficiency in mouse embryonic stem cells improves their differentiation potential towards neural lineage both in vitro and in vivo. Conversely, pTUNAR overexpression impairs neuronal differentiation by reduced neurite formation in different model systems. At the subcellular level, pTUNAR is a transmembrane protein that localizes in the endoplasmic reticulum and interacts with the calcium transporter SERCA2. pTUNAR overexpression reduces cytoplasmatic calcium, consistent with a possible role of pTUNAR as an activator of SERCA2. Altogether, our results suggest that our newly discovered microprotein has an important role in neural differentiation and neurite formation through the regulation of intracellular calcium. From a more general point of view, our results provide a proof of concept of the role of lncRNAs-encoded microproteins in neural differentiation.
    Keywords:  TUNAR; calcium; long non-coding RNAs; micropeptides; microproteins; neural differentiation; neurite formation; sORF encoded peptides