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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 13, 2023
  2. Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common age-related neurodegenerative disease, is associated with various forms of cognitive and functional impairment that worsen with disease progression. AD is typically characterized as a protein misfolding disease, in which abnormal plaques form due to accumulation of tau and β-amyloid (Aβ) proteins. An assortment of proteins is responsible for the processing and trafficking of Aβ, including sortilin-related receptor 1 (SORL1). Recently, a genome-wide association study of microRNA-related variants found that a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2291418 within premature microRNA-1229 (pre-miRNA-1229) is significantly associated with AD. Moreover, the levels of the mature miRNA-1229-3p, which has been shown to regulate the SORL1 translation, are increased in the rs2291418 pre-miRNA-1229 variant. In this study we used various biophysical techniques to show that pre-miRNA-1229 forms a G-quadruplex secondary structure that coexists in equilibrium with the canonical hairpin structure, potentially controlling the production of the mature miR-1229-3p, and furthermore, that the AD-associated SNP rs2291418 pre-miR-1229 changes the equilibrium between these structures. Thus, the G-quadruplex structure we identified within pre-miRNA-1229 could potentially act as a novel therapeutic target in AD.
  3. Abstract

    The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the necessity for a more fundamental understanding of the coronavirus life cycle. The causative agent of the disease, SARS-CoV-2, is being studied extensively from a structural standpoint in order to gain insight into key molecular mechanisms required for its survival. Contained within the untranslated regions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome are various conserved stem-loop elements that are believed to function in RNA replication, viral protein translation, and discontinuous transcription. While the majority of these regions are variable in sequence, a 41-nucleotide s2m element within the genome 3′ untranslated region is highly conserved among coronaviruses and three other viral families. In this study, we demonstrate that the SARS-CoV-2 s2m element dimerizes by forming an intermediate homodimeric kissing complex structure that is subsequently converted to a thermodynamically stable duplex conformation. This process is aided by the viral nucleocapsid protein, potentially indicating a role in mediating genome dimerization. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the s2m element interacts with multiple copies of host cellular microRNA (miRNA) 1307-3p. Taken together, our results highlight the potential significance of the dimer structures formed by the s2m element in key biological processes and implicate the motif as a possible therapeutic drug target for COVID-19more »and other coronavirus-related diseases.

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