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Mol Cell Biol. 1995 Apr;15(4):2145-56.

Turnover mechanisms of the stable yeast PGK1 mRNA.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Arizona, Tucson 85721.


The first step in the decay of several yeast mRNAs is the shortening of the poly(A) tail, which for the MFA2 transcript triggers decapping and 5'-to-3' degradation. To understand the basis for differences in mRNA decay rates, it is important to determine if deadenylation-dependent decapping is specific to the unstable MFA2 transcript or is a general mechanism of mRNA degradation. To this end, we analyzed the turnover of the stable PGK1 mRNA by monitoring the decay of a pulse of newly synthesized transcripts while using two strategies to trap decay intermediates. First, we used strains deleted for the XRN1 gene, which encodes a major 5'-to-3' exonuclease in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In xrn1 delta cells, PGK1 transcripts lacking the 5' cap structure and a few nucleotides at the 5' end were detected after deadenylation. Second, we inserted into the PGK1 5' untranslated region strong RNA secondary structures, which can slow exonucleolytic digestion and thereby trap decay intermediates. These secondary structures led to the accumulation of PGK1 mRNA fragments, following deadenylation, trimmed from the 5' end to the site of the secondary structure. The insertion of strong secondary structures into the 5' untranslated region also inhibited translation of the mRNA and greatly stimulated the decay of the PGK1 transcripts, suggesting that translation of the PGK1 mRNA is required for its normally slow rate of decay. These results suggest that one mechanism of degradation of the PGK1 transcript is deadenylation followed by decapping and subsequent 5'-to-3' exonucleolytic degradation. In addition, by blocking the 5'-to-3' degradation process, we observed PGK1 mRNA fragments that are consistent with a 3'-to-5' pathway of mRNA turnover that is slightly slower than the decapping/5'-to-3' decay pathway. These observations indicate that there are multiple mechanisms by which an individual transcript can be degraded following deadenylation.

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