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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Microarray analysis of ncRNA expression patterns in Caenorhabditis elegans after RNAi against snoRNA associated proteins

Muhammad Nauman Aftab14, Housheng He14, Geir Skogerbø1* and Runsheng Chen123*

Author Affiliations

1 Bioinformatics Laboratory and National Laboratory of Biomacromolecules, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences Beijing 100101, PR China

2 Bioinformatics Research Group, Key Laboratory of Intelligent Information Processing, Institute of Computing Technology, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing 100080, PR China

3 Chinese National Human Genome Center, Beijing 100176, PR China

4 Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing 100080, PR China

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:278  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-278

Published: 11 June 2008



Short non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) perform their cellular functions in ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes, which are also essential for maintaining the stability of the ncRNAs. Depletion of individual protein components of non-coding ribonucleoprotein (ncRNP) particles by RNA interference (RNAi) may therefore affect expression levels of the corresponding ncRNA, and depletion of candidate associated proteins may constitute an alternative strategy when investigating ncRNA-protein interactions and ncRNA functions. Therefore, we carried out a pilot study in which the effects of RNAi against protein components of small nucleolar RNPs (snoRNPs) in Caenorhabditis elegans were observed on an ncRNA microarray.


RNAi against individual C. elegans protein components of snoRNPs produced strongly reduced mRNA levels and distinct phenotypes for all targeted proteins. For each type of snoRNP, individual depletion of at least three of the four protein components produced significant (P ≦ 1.2 × 10-5) reductions in the expression levels of the corresponding small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), whereas the expression levels of other ncRNAs were largely unaffected. The effects of depletion of individual proteins were in accordance with snoRNP structure analyses obtained in other species for all but two of the eight targeted proteins. Variations in snoRNA size, sequence and secondary structure characteristics were not systematically reflected in the affinity for individual protein component of snoRNPs. The data supported the classification of nearly all annotated snoRNAs and suggested the presence of several novel snoRNAs among unclassified short ncRNA transcripts. A number of transcripts containing canonical Sm binding element sequences (Sm Y RNAs) also showed reduced expression after depletion of protein components of C/D box snoRNPs, whereas the expression of some stem-bulge RNAs (sbRNAs) was increased after depletion of the same proteins.


The study confirms observations made for other organisms, where reduced ncRNA levels after depletion of protein components of ncRNPs were noted, and shows that such reductions in expression levels occur across entire sets of ncRNA. Thereby, the study also demonstrates the feasibility of combining RNAi against candidate proteins with ncRNA microarray analysis to investigate ncRNA-protein interactions and hence ncRNA cellular functions.