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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Aug 1;90(15):7034-8.

Stabilization and ribosome association of unspliced pre-mRNAs in a yeast upf1- mutant.

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


Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, the accelerated turnover of mRNAs transcribed from genes containing early nonsense mutations, is dependent on the product of the UPF1 gene in yeast. Mutations that inactivate UPF1 lead to the selective stabilization of mRNAs containing early nonsense mutations but have no effect on the half-lives of almost all other mRNAs. Since the transcripts of nonsense alleles are not typical cellular constituents, we sought to identify those RNAs that comprise normal substrates of the nonsense-mediated mRNA decay pathway. Many yeast pre-mRNAs contain early in-frame nonsense codons and we consider it possible that a role of this pathway is to accelerate the degradation of pre-mRNAs present in the cytoplasm. Consistent with this hypothesis, we find that, in a strain lacking UPF1 function, the CYH2, RP51B, and MER2 pre-mRNAs are stabilized 2- to 5-fold and are associated with ribosomes. We conclude that a major source of early nonsense codon-containing cytoplasmic transcripts in yeast is pre-mRNAs and that the UPF1 protein may be part of a cellular system that ensures that potentially deleterious nonsense fragments of polypeptides do not accumulate.

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