Nat Struct Mol Biol
The LIN-28 RNA binding protein is important for development and survival of human embryonic stem cells. We show in this manuscript that LIN-28 controls the level of the microRNA let-7 at the level of its primary transcript, demonstrating a novel mode of LIN-28 and let-7 regulation that is conserved in humans and nematodes.
The highly conserved let-7 microRNA (miRNA) regulates developmental pathways across animal phyla. Mis-expression of let-7 causes lethality in C. elegans and has been associated with several human diseases. We show that timing of let-7 expression in developing worms is under complex transcriptional and post-transcriptional control. Expression of let-7 primary transcripts oscillates during each larval stage, but precursor and mature let-7 miRNAs do not accumulate until later in development after LIN-28 protein has diminished. We demonstrate that LIN-28 binds endogenous primary let-7 transcripts co-transcriptionally. We further show that LIN-28 binds endogenous primary let-7 transcripts in the nuclear compartment of human ES cells, suggesting that this LIN-28 activity is conserved across species. We conclude that co-transcriptional interaction of LIN-28 with let-7 primary transcripts blocks Drosha processing and, thus, precocious expression of mature let-7 during early development.