Ribonuclease P (RNase P) is an important ribonucleoprotein (RNP), responsible for the maturation of the 5′ end of precursor tRNAs (pre-tRNAs). In all organisms, the cleavage activity of a single phosphodiester bond adjacent to the first nucleotide of the acceptor stem is indispensable for cell viability and lies within an essential catalytic RNA subunit. Although RNase P is a ribozyme, its kinetic efficiency in vivo, as well as its structural variability and complexity throughout evolution, requires the presence of one protein subunit in bacteria to several protein partners in archaea and eukaryotes. Moreover, the existence of protein-only RNase P (PRORP) enzymes in several organisms and organelles suggests a more complex evolutionary timeline than previously thought. Recent detailed structures of bacterial, archaeal, human and mitochondrial RNase P complexes suggest that, although apparently dissimilar enzymes, they all recognize pre-tRNAs through conserved interactions. Interestingly, individual protein subunits of the human nuclear and mitochondrial holoenzymes have additional functions and contribute to a dynamic network of elaborate interactions and cellular processes. Herein, we summarize the role of each RNase P subunit with a focus on the human nuclear RNP and its putative role in flawless gene expression in light of recent structural studies.
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