Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Ambro van Hoof

Committee Member

Dr. Heidi B. Kaplan

Committee Member

Dr. William Margolin

Committee Member

Dr. Kevin A. Morano

Committee Member

Dr. Eric J. Wagner


The exosome is a 3’ to 5’ exoribonuclease complex that consists of ten essential subunits. In the cytoplasm, the exosome degrades mRNA in a general mRNA turnover pathway and in several mRNA surveillance pathways. In the nucleus, the exosome processes RNA precursors to form small, stable, mature RNA species, including rRNA, snRNA, and snoRNA. In addition to processing these RNAs, the nuclear exosome is also involved in degrading aberrantly processed forms of these RNAs, and others, including mRNA.

The 3’ to 5’ exoribonuclease activity of the exosome is contributed by the RNB domain of the only catalytically active subunit, Rrp44p, a member of the RNase II family of enzymes. In addition to the RNB domain, Rrp44p consists of three putative RNA binding domains and has an uncharacterized N-terminus, which includes a CR3 region and PIN domain. In an effort to characterize the cellular functions of the domains of Rrp44p, this study identified a second nuclease active site in the PIN domain. Specifically, the PIN domain exhibits endoribonuclease activity in vitro and is essential for exosome function. Further analysis of the nuclease activities of Rrp44p indicate a role for the exoribonuclease activity of Rrp44p in the cytoplasmic and nuclear exosome.

This work has also characterized the CR3 region of Rrp44p, a region that has not yet been characterized in any other protein. This region is needed for the majority, if not all, of the cytoplasmic exosome functions as well as for interaction with the exosome. The CR3 region, along with a histidine residue in the N-terminus of Rrp44p, may coordinate a zinc atom. Preliminary evidence supports a role for this coordination in exosome function. Further investigation, however, is needed to determine the molecular dependence of the exosome on the CR3 region of Rrp44p.

Despite its initial discovery thirteen years ago, the essential function of Rrp44p, and the exosome, is not yet known. The studies presented here, however, indicate that the essential function of Rrp44p and the exosome is in the nucleus and depends on the nuclease activities of Rrp44p.


S. cerevisiae, mRNA degradation, eukaryotic gene expression



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