Student Theses and Dissertations


Tony Sun

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

RU Laboratory

Rice Laboratory


RNA editing is a means of diversifying the transcriptome and regulating innate immunity. Among the different classes of enzymes that modify RNA, adenosine deaminase acting on RNA (ADAR) is a type that catalyzes adenosine-to-inosine editing on double-stranded RNA molecules to regulate cellular responses to endogenous and exogenous RNA. Of the three ADAR homologs in humans, dysregulation of ADAR1 editing due to inherited mutations leads to disorders such as Aicardi-Goutieres syndrome, an inflammatory disease that manifests in the brain and skin, and dyschromatosis symmetrica hereditaria, a skin pigmentation disorder. ADAR1 is the primary A-to-I editor of RNA in humans, and the majority of edit sites are found in a class of repetitive elements called Alu, many of which are located in introns and 3’ untranslated regions of RNA. The functional consequences of A-to-I editing are varied, although a complete lack of functional ADAR1 is usually not tolerated, as revealed by the MDA5-mediated embryonic lethality in mice lacking functional ADAR1. In human neural progenitor cells, loss of ADAR1 causes spontaneous upregulation of interferon and cell death, although the RNA triggers remain unknown. Given the importance of ADAR1-editing in maintaining homeostasis in various contexts, there is a need to understand in more detail how ADAR1 isoforms are regulated and how they individually contribute to the A-to-I RNA editome. Two ADAR1 protein isoforms, p110 (110 kDa) and p150 (150 kDa), are expressed constitutively and in response to interferon, respectively, but the contribution of each isoform to the editing landscape remains incompletely characterized, largely because of the challenges in expressing p150 without p110. We revealed that the p110 isoform can be expressed from the canonical p150-encoding mRNA due to leaky ribosome scanning downstream of the p150 start codon. Synonymous mutations introduced in the region between the p150 and p110 start codons reduce leaky scanning and usage of the p110 start codon, and cells expressing p150 constructs with these mutations produce significantly reduced levels of p110. With the ability to express p150 with significantly reduced levels of p110, the A-to-I editome can be classified in terms of p150-selective and p110-selective sites, allowing evaluation of the relative contributions of either isoform to global editing levels. Our editing analysis revealed that the majority of ADAR1-edit sites are p150-selective, although a significant proportion of ADAR1-edit sites are also shared between p150 and p110, being not dependent on presence of either isoform for editing to occur. Of the sites that are putatively p110- selective, the majority are located in introns. Finally, the ability of p150 mRNA to give rise to p110 means that p110 is also an interferon-inducible protein alongside the canonical interferon-stimulated ADAR1 isoform: p150. During the interferon response, the transcriptome changes, and many new mRNA structures, perhaps some immunogenic ones, will enter the nucleus and cytoplasm. The distribution of ADAR1 isoforms is such that p110 is mostly present in the nucleus, and p150 mostly in the cytoplasm. We propose that optimal editing in the nucleus and cytoplasm during the interferon response is achieved by the inducibility of p110 and p150, both of which share a large number of target sites.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Rockefeller University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

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