The ubiquitously expressed uridine-rich snRNAs (small nuclear RNAs) are essential for the removal of introns, proper expression of histone mRNA and biosynthesis of ribosomal RNA. Much is known about their assembly into snRNP (small nuclear ribonucleoprotein) particles and their ultimate function in the expression of other genes; however, in comparison, less is known about the biosynthesis of these critical non-coding RNAs. The sequence elements necessary for 3′ end formation of snRNAs have been identified and, intriguingly, the processing of snRNAs is uniquely dependent on the snRNA promoter, indicating that co-transcriptional processing is important. However, the trans-acting RNA-processing factors that mediate snRNA processing remained elusive, hindering overall progress. Recently, the factors involved in this process were biochemically purified, and designated the Integrator complex. Since their initial discovery, Integrator proteins have been implicated not only in the production of snRNA, but also in other cellular processes that may be independent of snRNA biogenesis. In the present study, we discuss snRNA biosynthesis and the roles of Integrator proteins. We compare models of 3′ end formation for different classes of RNA polymerase II transcripts and formulate/propose a model of Integrator function in snRNA biogenesis.

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