Posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression plays a central role in the initiation of innate and adaptive immune responses. This is exemplified by the protein Roquin, which has attracted great interest during the past decade owing to its ability to prevent autoimmunity. Roquin controls T-cell activation and T helper cell differentiation by limiting the induced expression of costimulatory receptors on the surface of T cells. It does so by recognizing cis regulatory RNA-hairpin elements in the 3′ UTR of target transcripts via its ROQ domain-a novel RNA-binding fold-and triggering their degradation through recruitment of factors that mediate deadenylation and decapping. Recent structural studies have revealed molecular details of the recognition of RNA hairpin structures by the ROQ domain. Surprisingly, it was found that Roquin mainly relies on shape-specific recognition of the RNA. This observation implies that a much broader range of RNA motifs could interact with the protein, but it also complicates systematic searches for novel mRNA targets of Roquin. Thus, large-scale approaches, such as crosslinking and immunoprecipitation or systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment experiments coupled with next-generation sequencing, will be required to identify the complete spectrum of its target RNAs. Together with structural analyses of their binding modes, this will enable us to unravel the intricate complexity of 3′ UTR regulation by Roquin and other trans-acting factors. Here, we review our current understanding of Roquin-RNA interactions and their role for Roquin function. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
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