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Origin of a novel CYP20A1 transcript isoform through multiple Alu exaptations creates a potential miRNA sponge

By Aniket Bhattacharya, Vineet Jha, Khushboo Singhal, Mahar Fatima, Dayanidhi Singh, Gaura Chaturvedi, Dhwani Dholakia, Rintu Kutum, Rajesh Pandey, Trygve E. Bakken, Pankaj Seth, Beena Pillai, Mitali Mukerji

Posted 25 Apr 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/618645

Background Primate-specific Alus contribute to transcriptional novelties in conserved gene regulatory networks. Alu RNAs are present at elevated levels in stress conditions and consequently leads to transcript isoform specific functional role modulating the physiological outcome. One of the possible mechanisms could be Alu nucleated mRNA-miRNA interplay. Result Using combination of bioinformatics and experiments, we report a transcript isoform of an orphan gene, CYP20A1 ( CYP20A1\_Alu-LT ) through exaptation of 23 Alus in its 9kb 3’UTR. CYP20A1\_Alu-LT , confirmed by 3’RACE, is an outlier in length and expressed in multiple cell lines. We demonstrate its presence in single nucleus RNA-seq of ∼16000 human cortical neurons (including rosehip neurons). Its expression is restricted to the higher primates. Most strikingly, miRanda predicts ∼4700 miRNA recognition elements (MREs; with threshold< −25kcal/mol) for ∼1000 miRNAs, which have majorly originated within the 3’UTR-Alus post exaptation. We hypothesized that differential expression of this transcript could modulate mRNA-miRNA networks and tested it in primary human neurons where CYP20A1\_Alu-LT is downregulated during heat shock response and upregulated upon HIV1-Tat treatment. CYP20A1\_Alu-LT could possibly function as a miRNA sponge as it exhibits features of a sponge RNA such as cytosolic localization and ≥10 MREs for 140 miRNAs. Small RNA-seq revealed expression of nine miRNAs that can potentially be sponged by CYP20A1\_Alu-LT in neurons. Additionally, CYP20A1\_Alu-LT expression was positively correlated (low in heat shock and high in Tat) with 380 differentially expressed genes that contain cognate MREs for these nine miRNAs. This set is enriched in genes involved in neuronal development and hemostasis pathways. Conclusion We demonstrate a potential role for CYP20A1_Alu-LT as miRNA sponge through preferential presence of MREs within Alus in a transcript isoform specific manner. This highlights a novel component of Alu-miRNA mediated transcriptional modulation leading to physiological homeostasis.

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