The nucleolar protein fibrillarin (encoded by the NOP1 gene in yeast), is required for many post-transcriptional steps in yeast ribosome synthesis. A screen for mutations showing synthetic lethality with a temperature sensitive nop1-5 allele led to the identification of the NOP77 gene. NOP77 is essential for viability and encodes a nucleolar protein with a predicted molecular weight of 77 kDa. Depletion of NOP77p impairs both the processing and methylation of the pre-rRNA. The processing defect is greatest for the pathway leading to 25S rRNA synthesis, and is distinctly different from that observed for mutations in other nucleolar components. NOP77p contains three canonical RNA recognition motifs (RRMs), suggesting that it is an RNA binding protein. The NOP77 allele which complements the synthetic lethal nop1 strains has an alanine at position 308, predicted to lie in helix alpha 1 of RRM3, whereas the non-complementing nop77-1 allele contains a proline at the corresponding position. We propose that NOP77p mediates specific interactions between NOP1p and the pre-rRNA.
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