The human box C/D snoRNA U3 is a miRNA source and miR-U3 regulates expression of sortin nexin 27.Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Jul 01 [Online ahead of print]NA
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important regulators of eukaryotic gene expression and their dysfunction is often associated with cancer. Alongside the canonical miRNA biogenesis pathway involving stepwise processing and export of pri- and pre-miRNA transcripts by the microprocessor complex, Exportin 5 and Dicer, several alternative mechanisms of miRNA production have been described. Here, we reveal that the atypical box C/D snoRNA U3, which functions as a scaffold during early ribosome assembly, is a miRNA source. We show that a unique stem-loop structure in the 5' domain of U3 is processed to form short RNA fragments that associate with Argonaute. miR-U3 production is independent of Drosha, and an increased amount of U3 in the cytoplasm in the absence of Dicer suggests that a portion of the full length snoRNA is exported to the cytoplasm where it is efficiently processed into miRNAs. Using reporter assays, we demonstrate that miR-U3 can act as a low proficiency miRNA in vivo and our data support the 3' UTR of the sortin nexin SNX27 mRNA as an endogenous U3-derived miRNA target. We further reveal that perturbation of U3 snoRNP assembly induces miR-U3 production, highlighting potential cross-regulation of target mRNA expression and ribosome production.