Open Access Open Badges Research

Defining potentially conserved RNA regulons of homologous zinc-finger RNA-binding proteins

Tanja Scherrer12, Christian Femmer13, Ralph Schiess4, Ruedi Aebersold4 and André P Gerber1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zürich, Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 10, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland

2 PhD Program in Molecular Life Sciences, University and ETH Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland

3 Bioprocess Laboratory, Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, ETH Zürich, Mattenstrasse 26, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

4 Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, Department of Biology, ETH Zürich, Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 16, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland

For all author emails, please log on.

Genome Biology 2011, 12:R3  doi:10.1186/gb-2011-12-1-r3

Published: 13 January 2011



Glucose inhibition of gluconeogenic growth suppressor 2 protein (Gis2p) and zinc-finger protein 9 (ZNF9) are conserved yeast and human zinc-finger proteins. The function of yeast Gis2p is unknown, but human ZNF9 has been reported to bind nucleic acids, and mutations in the ZNF9 gene cause the neuromuscular disease myotonic dystrophy type 2. To explore the impact of these proteins on RNA regulation, we undertook a systematic analysis of the RNA targets and of the global implications for gene expression.


Hundreds of mRNAs were associated with Gis2p, mainly coding for RNA processing factors, chromatin modifiers and GTPases. Target mRNAs contained stretches of G(A/U)(A/U) trinucleotide repeats located in coding sequences, which are sufficient for binding to both Gis2p and ZNF9, thus implying strong structural conservation. Predicted ZNF9 targets belong to the same functional categories as seen in yeast, indicating functional conservation, which is further supported by complementation of the large cell-size phenotype of gis2 mutants with ZNF9. We further applied a matched-sample proteome-transcriptome analysis suggesting that Gis2p differentially coordinates expression of RNA regulons, primarily by reducing mRNA and protein levels of genes required for ribosome assembly and by selectively up-regulating protein levels of myosins.


This integrated systematic exploration of RNA targets for homologous RNA-binding proteins indicates an unexpectedly high conservation of the RNA-binding properties and of potential targets, thus predicting conserved RNA regulons. We also predict regulation of muscle-specific genes by ZNF9, adding a potential link to the myotonic dystrophy related phenotypes seen in ZNF9 mouse models.