The PRP4 protein of Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an essential part of the U4/U6 snRNP, a component of the mRNA splicing apparatus. As an approach to the determination of structure-function relationships in the PRP4 protein, we have isolated more than fifty new alleles of the PRP4 gene through random and site-directed mutagenesis, and have analyzed the phenotypes of many of them. Twelve of the fourteen single-point mutations that give rise to temperature-sensitive (ts) or null phenotypes are located in the portion of the PRP4 gene that corresponds to the β-transducin-like region of the protein; the remaining two are located in the central portion of the gene, one of them in an arginine-lysine-rich region. Nine additional deletion or deletion/insertion mutations were isolated at both the amino- and carboxy-termini. These data show that the amino-terminal region (108 amino acids) of PRP4 is non-essential, while the carboxy-terminal region is essential up to the penultimate amino acid. A deletion of one entire β-transducin-like repeat (the third of five) resulted in a null phenotype. All ts mutants show a first-step defect in the splicing of U3 snRNA primary transcript in vivo at the non-permissive temperature. The effects on prp4 mutant growth of increased copy-number of mutant prp4 genes themselves, and of genes for other components of the U4/U6 snRNP (PRP3 and U6 snRNA) have also been studied. We suggest that the PRP4 protein has at least three domains: a non-essential amino-terminal segment of at least 108 amino acids, a central basic region of about 140 residues that is relatively refractile to mutation and might be involved in RNA interaction, and an essential carboxy-terminal region of about 210 residues with the five repeat-regions that are similar to β-transducins, which might be involved in protein-protein interaction. A model of interactions of snRNP components suggested by these results is presented.
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