Nucleostemin and GNL3L exercise distinct functions in genome protection and ribosome synthesis, respectively

Tao Lin, Lingjun Meng, Tsung Chin Lin, Laura J. Wu, Thoru Pederson, Robert Y.L. Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The mammalian nucleolar proteins nucleostemin and GNL3-like (GNL3L) are encoded by paralogous genes that arose from an ancestral invertebrate gene, GNL3. Invertebrate GNL3 has been implicated in ribosome biosynthesis, as has its mammalian descendent, GNL3L. The paralogous mammalian nucleostemin protein has, instead, been implicated in cell renewal. Here, we found that depletion of nucleostemin in a human breast carcinoma cell line triggers prompt and significant DNA damage in S-phase cells without perturbing the initial step of ribosomal (r)RNA synthesis and only mildly affects the total ribosome production. By contrast, GNL3L depletion markedly impairs ribosome production without inducing appreciable DNA damage. These results indicate that, during vertebrate evolution, GNL3L retained the role of the ancestral gene in ribosome biosynthesis, whereas the paralogous nucleostemin acquired a novel genome-protective function. Our results provide a coherent explanation for what had seemed to be contradictory findings about the functions of the invertebrate versus vertebrate genes and are suggestive of how the nucleolus was fine-tuned for a role in genome protection and cell-cycle control as the vertebrates evolved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2302-2312
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell cycle
  • DNA damage
  • GNL3L
  • Nucleolus
  • Nucleostemin
  • Ribosomal synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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