Press Release


The enzyme Eri1 degrades modified histone mRNAs

Neuherberg, January 25, 2013. The rapid replication-dependent decay of histone mRNAs requires the enzyme Eri1. The prerequisite for this degradation is a chemical modification of the RNA. Scientists from the Institute of Molecular Immunology (IMI) and the Research Unit Gene Vectors (AGV) of the Helmholtz Zentrum München published their findings recently in ‘Nature Structural and Molecular Biology’. The results significantly advanced our understanding of induced mRNA degradation, a so far rather poorly investigated process.

Image: Prof. Vigo Heissmeyer, Institute of Molecular Immunology

RNAs are copies of DNA and in the form of ‘messenger RNAs’ (mRNA) they serve as templates for the biogenesis of proteins. Besides these coding RNAs, there are also non-coding RNAs which can acquire important regulatory functions. General degradation processes of different RNA classes have been examined closely over the last years. The group headed by Vigo Heissmeyer from IMI has now been able to show that a specific chemical modification is the basis for the inducible degradation of histone mRNAs by the Eri1 enzyme. This so-called ‘uridylation’ is a process, in which one of the RNA building blocks, uridine, is repeatedly appended to the end of the molecule. As a working model, the scientists used histone mRNAs. Histones are nuclear proteins, which enable tight packaging of DNA. A special feature of histone mRNAs is a hairpin structure at their end, which stabilises them. This end can be uridylated to induce Eri1-dependent degradation of the hairpin. At the specific stage of the cell cycle when DNA synthesis ceases, Eri1 ensures a decline of histone mRNA levels. “We think that Eri1 prevents excessive and potentially genome-damaging histone protein production. This is a danger, which may especially affect germ cells or cells of the immune system, since these undergo rapid cell divisions”, says Kai Hoefig of the IMI and first author of the study.

Uridylation as a modification of RNAs has recently been recognized to affect various RNA classes. Among these are also small regulatory RNAs, called miRNAs. “Since no enzymes have been described so far which degrade uridylated miRNAs we now want to find out whether Eri1 controls these in a similar manner”, says Vigo Heissmeyer.

Further Information

Original Publication:
Hoefig, KP. et al., (2013) Eri1 degrades the stem loop of oligouridylated histone mRNAs to induce replication-dependent decay, Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, doi:10.1038/nsmb.2450

Link to publication

Helmholtz Zentrum München
, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medicine, i.e. a customized approach to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung disease. To that end, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The head office of the center is located in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München has a staff of approximately 2000 people and is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with some 34,000 staff members.

The Institute for Molecular Immunology (IMI) conducts application-oriented basic research at the interfaces of hematology, immunology, onkology and transplantational biology. With the help of cell and molecular-biological method of the immune system the immune system can be modulated. A simulation of the immune system should be made useful for the patients, for example, in case of immune- and gene therapy of cancer and autoimmune diseases or of possible transplantation rejections of the immune system.


Scientific contact

Prof. Vigo Heissmeyer, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Center for Environmental Research (GmbH), Institute of Molecular Immunology, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany – Phone: : +49 (0)89-3187-1214 -