Spinal muscular atrophy is a common often lethal neurodegenerative disease resulting from deletions or mutations in the survival motor neuron gene (SMN). SMN is ubiquitously expressed in metazoan cells and plays a role in small nuclear ribonucleoprotein assembly and pre-mRNA splicing. Here we characterize the Schizosacharomyces pombe orthologue of SMN (yeast SMN (ySMN)). We report that the ySMN protein is essential for viability and localizes in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus. Like human SMN, we show that ySMN can oligomerize. Remarkably, ySMN interacts directly with human SMN and Sm proteins. The highly conserved carboxyl-terminal domain of ySMN is necessary for the evolutionarily conserved interactions of SMN and required for cell viability. We also demonstrate that the conserved amino-terminal region of ySMN is not required for SMN and Sm binding but is critical for the housekeeping function of SMN.
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