A tailed mirtron promotes longevity in DrosophilaSweta Khanal, Matthew de Cruz, Britton Strickland, Kody Mansfield, Eric C Lai, Alex Flynt
Thousands of atypical microRNAs (miRNAs) have been described in the genomes of animals; however, it is unclear if many of these non-canonical miRNAs can measurably influence phenotypes. Mirtrons are the largest class of non-canonical miRNAs that are produced from hairpins excised by splicing, which after debranching become substrates for Dicer and load into RISC. Most mirtrons require additional processing after splicing to remove ‘tail’ residues interposed between one of the host intron splice sites and base of the hairpin precursor structure. Despite most mirtrons requiring tail removal no function has been elucidated for a tailed species, indeed for all mirtrons identified function has only been assigned to a single species. Here we study miR-1017, a mirtron with a 3′ tail, which is well expressed and conserved in Drosophila species. We found that miR-1017 can extend lifespan when ectopically expressed in the neurons, which seems partly due to this miRNA targeting its host transcript, acetylcholine receptor Dα2. Unexpectedly we found that not only did miR-1017 function in trans but also in cis by affecting splicing of Dα2. This suggests a mechanism for mirtron evolution where initial roles of structural elements in splicing lead to secondary acquisition of trans-regulatory function.