Peptides modeled on the RGG domain of AUF1/hnRNP-D regulate 3′ UTR-dependent gene expression

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Messenger RNA binding proteins control post-transcriptional gene expression of targeted mRNAs. The RGG (arginine-glycine-glycine) domain of the AUF1/hnRNP-D mRNA binding protein is a regulatory region that is essential for protein function. The AUF1-RGG peptide, modeled on the RGG domain of AUF1, represses expression of the macrophage cytokine, VEGF. This report expands studies on the AUF1-RGG peptide and evaluates the role of post-translational modifications of the AUF1 protein. Results show that a minimal 31-amino acid AUF1-RGG peptide that lacks poly-glutamine and nuclear localization motifs retains suppressive activity on a VEGF-3′UTR reporter. Arginine residues in RGG motifs may be methylated with resulting changes in protein function. Mass spectroscopy analysis was performed on AUF1 expressed in RAW-264.7 cells. In resting cells, arginines in the first and second RGG motifs are monomethylated. Following activation with lipopolysaccharide, the arginines are dimethylated. To evaluate if the arginine residues are essential for AUF1-RGG activity, the methylatable arginines in the AUF1-3RGG peptide were mutated to lysine or alanine. The R→K and R→A mutants lack activity. We also demonstrate that PI3K/AKT inhibitors reduce VEGF gene expression. Although immunoscreening of AUF1 suggests that LPS and PI3K inhibitors alter the phosphorylation status of AUF1-p37, mass spectroscopy results show that the p37 AUF1 isoform is not phosphorylated with or without lipopolysaccharide stimulation. In summary, arginines in the RGG domain of AUF1 are methylated, and AUF1-RGG peptides may be novel reagents that reduce macrophage activation in inflammation.

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