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Methods. 1999 Jan;17(1):11-20.

Transcriptional pulsing approaches for analysis of mRNA turnover in mammalian cells.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Texas Houston Health Science Center Medical School, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Modulation of mRNA stability provides a powerful means for controlling gene expression during the cell cycle, cell differentiation, the immune response, as well as many other physiological transitions. Through the years, many different methods have been developed for measuring mRNA stability. Frequently mRNA stability is studied indirectly by analyzing the steady-state level of mRNA. Therefore by inference, changes in mRNA abundance are thought to affect only the stability of the mRNA, an assumption that is not always correct. Alternatively, direct measurements of mRNA decay are performed in a number of ways, including kinetic labeling techniques and administration of transcriptional inhibitors. Due to the nature of these techniques, they either are technically demanding or introduce a significant change in cell physiology. In addition, many critical mechanistic issues as to deadenylation kinetics, decay intermediates, and precursor-product relationships cannot be readily addressed by these methods. Here, we describe and discuss in detail two different transcriptional pulsing methods based on the c-fos serum-inducible promoter and the tetracycline-regulated promoter systems as an effort to better elucidate the mechanistic steps and regulation underlying differential and selective mRNA turnover in mammalian cells. Both systems allow unequivocal monitoring of deadenylation and decay kinetics as well as determination of precursor-product relationship. In addition, decay rate constants and half-lives are determined and used in both methods to quantitatively denote the mRNA stability. Thus, they provide a reliable way to determine subtle yet physiologically meaningful changes in mRNA stability. Application of one method or the other covers the study of mRNA turnover in most mammalian cell types under a wide range of physiological conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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