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EMBO J. 1999 Mar 1; 18(5): 1182–1191.
PMCID: PMC1171209

The yeast non-Mendelian factor [ETA+] is a variant of [PSI+], a prion-like form of release factor eRF3.

Abstract

The yeast non-Mendelian factor [ETA+] is lethal in the presence of certain mutations in the SUP35 and SUP45 genes, which code for the translational release factors eRF3 and eRF1, respectively. One such mutation, sup35-2, is now shown to contain a UAG stop codon prior to the essential region of the gene. The non-Mendelian inheritance of [ETA+] is reminiscent of the yeast [PSI+] element, which is due to a self-propagating conformation of Sup35p. Here we show that [ETA+] and [PSI+] share many characteristics. Indeed, like [PSI+], the maintenance of [ETA+] requires the N-terminal region of Sup35p and depends on an appropriate level of the chaperone protein Hsp104. Moreover, [ETA+] can be induced de novo by excess Sup35p, and [ETA+] cells have a weak nonsense suppressor phenotype characteristic of weak [PSI+]. We conclude that [ETA+] is actually a weak, unstable variant of [PSI+]. We find that although some Sup35p aggregates in [ETA+] cells, more Sup35p remains soluble in [ETA+] cells than in isogenic strong [PSI+] cells. Our data suggest that the amount of soluble Sup35p determines the strength of translational nonsense suppression associated with different [PSI+] variants.

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