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Mol Ther. 2012 May;20(5):954-9. doi: 10.1038/mt.2012.29. Epub 2012 Mar 20.

UU/UA dinucleotide frequency reduction in coding regions results in increased mRNA stability and protein expression.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biomedicine, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


UU and UA dinucleotides are rare in mammalian genes and may offer natural selection against endoribonuclease-mediated mRNA decay. This study hypothesized that reducing UU and UA (UW) dinucleotides in the mRNA-coding sequence, including the codons and the dicodon boundaries, may promote resistance to mRNA decay, thereby increasing protein production. Indeed, protein expression from UW-reduced coding regions of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP), luciferase, interferon-α, and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was higher when compared to the wild-type protein expression. The steady-state level of UW-reduced EGFP mRNA was higher and the mRNA half-life was also longer. Ectopic expression of the endoribonuclease, RNase L, did not reduce the wild type or UW-reduced mRNA. A mutant form of the mRNA decay-promoting protein, tristetraprolin (TTP/ZFP36), which has a point mutation in the zinc-finger domain (C124R), was used. The wild-type EGFP mRNA but not the UW-reduced mRNA responded to the dominant negative action of the C124R ZFP36/TTP mutant. The results indicate the efficacy of the described rational approach to formulate a general scheme for boosting recombinant protein production in mammalian cells.

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