The small noncoding vault RNA (vtRNA) is a component of the vault complex, a ribonucleoprotein complex found in most eukaryotes. Emerging evidence suggests that vtRNAs may be involved in the regulation of a variety of cellular functions when unassociated with the vault complex. Here, we demonstrate a novel role for vtRNA in synaptogenesis. Using an in vitro synapse formation model, we show that murine vtRNA (mvtRNA) promotes synapse formation by modulating the MAPK signaling pathway. mvtRNA is transported to the distal region of neurites as part of the vault complex. Interestingly, mvtRNA is released from the vault complex in the neurite by a mitotic kinase Aurora-A–dependent phosphorylation of MVP, a major protein component of the vault complex. mvtRNA binds to and activates MEK1 and thereby enhances MEK1-mediated ERK activation in neurites. These results suggest the existence of a regulatory mechanism of the MAPK signaling pathway by vtRNAs as a new molecular basis for synapse formation.

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