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RNA. 2009 Jul;15(7):1265-73. doi: 10.1261/rna.1672509. Epub 2009 May 27.

Processing bodies are not required for mammalian nonsense-mediated mRNA decay.

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  • 1Institute of Cell Biology, University of Berne, 3012 Berne, Switzerland.


Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a eukaryotic quality-control mechanism that recognizes and degrades mRNAs with premature termination codons (PTCs). In yeast, PTC-containing mRNAs are targeted to processing bodies (P-bodies), and yeast strains expressing an ATPase defective Upf1p mutant accumulate P-bodies. Here we show that in human cells, an ATPase-deficient UPF1 mutant and a fraction of UPF2 and UPF3b accumulate in cytoplasmic foci that co-localize with P-bodies. Depletion of the P-body component Ge-1, which prevents formation of microscopically detectable P-bodies, also impairs the localization of mutant UPF1, UPF2, and UPF3b in cytoplasmic foci. However, the accumulation of the ATPase-deficient UPF1 mutant in P-bodies is independent of UPF2, UPF3b, or SMG1, and the ATPase-deficient UPF1 mutant can localize into the P-bodies independent of its phosphorylation status. Most importantly, disruption of P-bodies by depletion of Ge-1 affects neither the mRNA levels of PTC-containing reporter genes nor endogenous NMD substrates. Consistent with the recently reported decapping-independent SMG6-mediated endonucleolytic decay of human nonsense mRNAs, our results imply that microscopically detectable P-bodies are not required for mammalian NMD.

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