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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 May 28;93(11):5208-12.

Absolute mRNA levels and transcriptional initiation rates in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


We quantitate the absolute levels of individual mRNAs per yeast cell by hybridizing total yeast RNA with an excess of gene-specific 32P-oligonucleotides, and digesting the resulting RNA-DNA hybrids with S1 nuclease. By comparing the his3 hybridization signal from a known amount of yeast cells to the signal generated by a known amount of his3 RNA synthesized in vitro, we determine that yeast strain KY114 growing in yeast extract/peptone/glucose medium at 30 degrees C contains seven molecules of his3 mRNA per cell. Using a galactose shut-off procedure, we determined that the half-life of his3 mRNA is approximately 11 min under these conditions. From these observations, we calculate that one his3 mRNA molecule is synthesized every 140 s. Analysis of other his3 promoter derivatives suggests that the maximal transcriptional initiation rate in yeast cells is one mRNA molecule every 6-8 s. Using his3 as an internal standard, the number of mRNA molecules per cell have been determined for ded1, trp3, rps4, and gall under a variety of growth conditions. From these results, the absolute mRNA level of any yeast gene can be determined in a single hybridization experiment. Moreover, the rate of transcriptional initiation can be determined for mRNAs whose decay rates are known.

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