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Gene. 1990 Jul 16;91(2):151-8.

Tales of poly(A): a review.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester 01655.


Until recently, evidence to support a translational role for the 3'-poly(A) tract of eukaryotic mRNAs has been mostly indirect, including: a correlation between the adenylation status of individual mRNAs and their translatability in vivo or in vitro, the demonstration that exogenously added poly(A) is a potent competitive inhibitor of the translation of poly(A)+mRNA, but not poly(A)-mRNAs in vitro, and a correlation between the abundance and stability of poly(A)-binding proteins (PABPs) and the rate of translational initiation in vivo. However, more recent studies demonstrate directly that poly(A)+mRNAs can initiate translation more efficiently than poly(A)-mRNAs, and indicate that this effect is: (i) targeted to the formation of 80S initiation complexes, and (ii) likely to be mediated by the cytoplasmic PABP. We suggest that the 3'-poly(A) tail should be considered a translational enhancer which may stimulate translational initiation in much the same way that transcriptional enhancers are thought to stimulate transcriptional initiation.

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