The ADAR protein family
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Genome Biology 2012, 13:252 doi:10.1186/gb-2012-13-12-252Published: 28 December 2012
Adenosine to inosine (A-to-I) RNA editing is a post-transcriptional process by which adenosines are selectively converted to inosines in double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) substrates. A highly conserved group of enzymes, the adenosine deaminase acting on RNA (ADAR) family, mediates this reaction. All ADARs share a common domain architecture consisting of a variable number of amino-terminal dsRNA binding domains (dsRBDs) and a carboxy-terminal catalytic deaminase domain. ADAR family members are highly expressed in the metazoan nervous system, where these enzymes predominantly localize to the neuronal nucleus. Once in the nucleus, ADARs participate in the modification of specific adenosines in pre-mRNAs of proteins involved in electrical and chemical neurotransmission, including pre-synaptic release machineries, and voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels. Most RNA editing sites in these nervous system targets result in non-synonymous codon changes in functionally important, usually conserved, residues and RNA editing deficiencies in various model organisms bear out a crucial role for ADARs in nervous system function. Mutation or deletion of ADAR genes results in striking phenotypes, including seizure episodes, extreme uncoordination, and neurodegeneration. Not only does the process of RNA editing alter important nervous system peptides, but ADARs also regulate gene expression through modification of dsRNA substrates that enter the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway and may then act at the chromatin level. Here, we present a review on the current knowledge regarding the ADAR protein family, including evolutionary history, key structural features, localization, function and mechanism.