snRNPs (pronounced "snurps"), or small nuclear ribonucleic particles, are RNA-protein complexes that combine with unmodified pre-mRNA and various other proteins to form a spliceosome, a large RNA-protein molecular complex upon which splicing of pre-mRNA occurs. The action of snRNPs is essential to the removal of introns from pre-mRNA, a critical aspect of post-transcriptional modification of RNA, occurring only in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells. Additionally, U7 snRNP is not involved in splicing at all, as U7 snRNP is responsible to process the 3′ stem-loop of histone pre-mRNA. 
The two essential components of snRNPs are protein molecules and RNA. The RNA found within each snRNP particle is known as small nuclear RNA, or snRNA, and is usually about 150 nucleotides in length. The snRNA component of the snRNP gives specificity to individual introns by "recognizing" the sequences of critical splicing signals at the 5' and 3' ends and branch site of introns. The snRNA in snRNPs is similar to ribosomal RNA in that it directly incorporates both an enzymatic and a structural role.
SnRNPs were discovered by Michael R. Lerner and Joan A. Steitz. Thomas R. Cech and Sidney Altman also played a role in the discovery, winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1989 for their independent discoveries that RNA can act as a catalyst in cell development (http://www.colorado.edu/news/nobel/cech/).
- 1 Types of snRNPs
- 2 Biogenesis
- 3 Structures, function and organization
- 4 Anti-snRNP antibodies
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Types of snRNPs
At least five different kinds of snRNPs join the spliceosome to participate in splicing. They can be visualized by gel electrophoresis and are known individually as: U1, U2, U4, U5, and U6. Their snRNA components are known, respectively, as: U1 snRNA, U2 snRNA, U4 snRNA, U5 snRNA, and U6 snRNA.
In the mid-1990s, it was discovered that a variant class of snRNPs exists to help in the splicing of a class of introns found only in metazoans, with highly-conserved 5' splice sites and branch sites. This variant class of snRNPs includes: U11 snRNA, U12 snRNA, U4atac snRNA, and U6atac snRNA. While different, they perform the same functions as do U1, U2, U4, and U6, respectively.
Synthesis and export of RNA in the nucleus
Synthesis and storage of Sm proteins in the cytoplasm
The Sm proteins are synthesized in the cytoplasm by ribosomes translating Sm messenger RNA, just like any other protein. These are stored in the cytoplasm in the form of three partially assembled rings complexes all associated with the pICln protein. They are a 6S pentamer complex of SmD1,SmD2, SmF, SmE and SmG with pICln, a 2-4S complex of B, possibly with D3 and pICln and the 20S methylosome, which is a large complex of SmD3, SmB, SmD1, pICln and the arginine methyltransferase-5 (PRMT5) protein. SmD3, SmB and SmD1 undergo post-translational modification in the methylosome. These three Sm proteins have repeated arginine-glycine motifs in the C-terminal ends of SmD1, SmD3 and SmB, and the arginine side chains are symmetrically dimethylated to ω-NG, NG'-dimethyl-arginine. It has been suggested that pICln, which occurs in all three precursor complexes but is absent in the mature snRNPs, acts as a specialized chaperone, preventing premature assembly of Sm proteins.
Assembly of core snRNPs in the SMN complex
The snRNAs (U1, U2, U4, U5, and the less abundant U11, U12 and U4atac) quickly interact with the SMN (Survival of Motor Neurons; encoded by SMN1 gene) protein and Gemins 2-8 (Gem-associated proteins: GEMIN2, GEMIN3, GEMIN4, GEMIN5, GEMIN6, GEMIN7, GEMIN8) forming the SMN complex. It is here that the snRNA binds to the SmD1-SmD2-SmF-SmE-SmG pentamer, followed by addition of the SmD3-SmB dimer to complete the Sm ring around the so-called Sm site of the snRNA. This Sm site is a conserved sequence of nucleotides in these snRNAs, typically AUUUGUGG (where A, U and G represent the nucleosides adenosine, uridine and guanosine respectively). After assembly of the Sm ring around the snRNA, the 5' terminal nucleoside (already modified to a 7-methylguanosine cap) is hyper-methylated to 2,2,7-trimethylguanosine and the other (3') end of the snRNA is trimmed. This modification, and the presence of a complete Sm ring, is recognized by the snurportin 1 protein.
Final assembly of the snRNPs in the nucleus
The completed core snRNP-snurportin 1 complex is transported into the nucleus via the protein importin β. Inside the nucleus, the core snRNPs appear in the Cajal bodies, where final assembly of the snRNPs take place. This consists of additional proteins and other modifications specific to the particular snRNP (U1, U2, U4, U5). The biogenesis of the U6 snRNP occurs in the nucleus although large amounts of free U6 are found in the cytoplasm. The LSm ring may assemble first, and then associate with the U6 snRNA.
Disassembly of snRNPs
The snRNPs are very long-lived, but are assumed to be eventually disassembled and degraded. Little is known about the degradation process.
Defects in snRNP biogenesis as a cause of Spinal muscular atrophy
Defects in the SMN gene are associated with premature death of spinal motor neurons, and results in Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). This genetic disease is manifested over a wide range of severity. The most severe form results in paralysis, is usually fatal by age 2, and is the most common genetic cause of infant death.
Structures, function and organization
Several human and yeast snRNP structures were determined by the cryo-electron microscopy and successive single particle analysis.  Only human U1 snRNP structure was determined by X-ray crystallography.   The structures determined by single particle electron microscopy analysis are: human U1 snRNP  , human U11/U12 di-snRNP  human U5 snRNP, U4/U6 di-snRNP, U4/U6∙U5 tri-snRNP . The further progress determining the structures and functions of snRNPs and spliceosomes continues. 
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- Lerner MR, Steitz JA (November 1979). "Antibodies to small nuclear RNAs complexed with proteins are produced by patients with systemic lupus erythematosus". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 76 (11): 5495–9. doi:10.1073/pnas.76.11.5495. PMC 411675. PMID 316537.
- Lerner MR, Boyle JA, Mount SM, Wolin SL, Steitz JA (January 1980). "Are snRNPs involved in splicing?". Nature 283 (5743): 220–4. doi:10.1038/283220a0. PMID 7350545.
- Weaver, Robert F. (2005). Molecular Biology, p.432-448. McGraw-Hill, New York, NY. ISBN 0-07-284611-9.
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- Stark, Holger; Reinhard Lührmann (2006). "Cryo-Electron Microscopy of Spliceosomal Components". Annual Review of Biophysics and Biomolecular Structure 35 (1): 435–457. doi:10.1146/annurev.biophys.35.040405.101953. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Pomeranz Krummel, Daniel A.; Chris Oubridge, Adelaine K. W. Leung, Jade Li, Kiyoshi Nagai (2009-03-26). "Crystal structure of human spliceosomal U1 snRNP at 5.5[thinsp]A resolution". Nature 458 (7237): 475–480. doi:10.1038/nature07851. ISSN 0028-0836. Retrieved 2012-01-24.
- Weber, Gert; Simon Trowitzsch, Berthold Kastner, Reinhard Luhrmann, Markus C Wahl (2010-12-15). "Functional organization of the Sm core in the crystal structure of human U1 snRNP". EMBO J 29 (24): 4172–4184. doi:10.1038/emboj.2010.295. ISSN 0261-4189. Retrieved 2010-12-15.
- Stark, Holger; Prakash Dube, Reinhard Luhrmann, Berthold Kastner (2001-01-25). "Arrangement of RNA and proteins in the spliceosomal U1 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle". Nature 409 (6819): 539–542. doi:10.1038/35054102. ISSN 0028-0836. Retrieved 2012-01-24.
- Golas, Monika M.; Bjoern Sander, Cindy L. Will, Reinhard Lührmann, Holger Stark (2005-03-18). "Major Conformational Change in the Complex SF3b upon Integration into the Spliceosomal U11/U12 di-snRNP as Revealed by Electron Cryomicroscopy". Molecular Cell 17 (6): 869–883. doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2005.02.016. ISSN 1097-2765. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- Sander, Bjoern; Monika M. Golas, Evgeny M. Makarov, Hero Brahms, Berthold Kastner, Reinhard Lührmann, Holger Stark (2006-10-20). "Organization of Core Spliceosomal Components U5 snRNA Loop I and U4/U6 Di-snRNP within U4/U6.U5 Tri-snRNP as Revealed by Electron Cryomicroscopy". Molecular Cell 24 (2): 267–278. doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2006.08.021. ISSN 1097-2765. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
- Will, Cindy L.; Reinhard Lührmann (2011-07-01). "Spliceosome Structure and Function". Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology 3 (7). doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a003707. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- Joan Steitz's short talk: "SNURPs and Serendipity"
- snRNP at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)