Known and novel post-transcriptional regulatory sequences are conserved across plant families

Justin N. Vaughn, Sally R. Ellingson, Flavio Mignone, Albrecht Von Arnim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The sequence elements that mediate post-transcriptional gene regulation often reside in the 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions (UTRs) of mRNAs. Using six different families of dicotyledonous plants, we developed a comparative transcriptomics pipeline for the identification and annotation of deeply conserved regulatory sequences in the 5′ and 3′ UTRs. Our approach was robust to confounding effects of poor UTR alignability and rampant paralogy in plants. In the 3′ UTR, motifs resembling PUMILIObinding sites form a prominent group of conserved motifs. Additionally, Expansins, one of the few plant mRNA families known to be localized to specific subcellular sites, possess a core conserved RCCCGC motif. In the 5′ UTR, one major subset of motifs consists of purine-rich repeats. A distinct and substantial fraction possesses upstream AUG start codons. Half of the AUG containing motifs reveal hidden protein-coding potential in the 5′ UTR, while the other half point to a peptideindependent function related to translation. Among the former, we added four novel peptides to the small catalog of conserved-peptide uORFs. Among the latter, our case studies document patterns of uORF evolution that include gain and loss of uORFs, switches in uORF reading frame, and switches in uORF length and position. In summary, nearly three hundred posttranscriptional elements show evidence of purifying selection across the eudicot branch of flowering plants, indicating a regulatory function spanning at least 70 million years. Some of these sequences have experimental precedent, but many are novel and encourage further exploration. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-384
Number of pages17
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Angiosperms
  • Post-transcriptional control
  • RNA motif
  • Translation reinitiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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