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RNA. 1999 Jun;5(6):711-9.

mRNA surveillance in eukaryotes: kinetic proofreading of proper translation termination as assessed by mRNP domain organization?

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


In the last few years it has become clear that a conserved mRNA degradation system, referred to as mRNA surveillance, exists in eukaryotic cells to degrade aberrant mRNAs. This process plays an important role in checking that mRNAs have been properly synthesized and functions, at least in part, to increase the fidelity of gene expression by degrading aberrant mRNAs that, if translated, would produce truncated proteins. A critical issue is how normal and aberrant mRNAs are distinguished and how that distinction leads to differences in mRNA stability. Recent results suggest a model with three main points. First, mRNPs have a domain organization that is, in part, a reflection of the completion of nuclear pre-mRNA processing events. Second, the critical aspect of distinguishing a normal from an aberrant mRNA is the environment of the translation termination codon as determined by the organization of the mRNP domains. Third, the cell distinguishes proper from improper termination through an internal clock that is the rate of ATP hydrolysis by Upf1p. If termination is completed before ATP hydrolysis, the mRNA is protected from mRNA degradation. Conversely, if termination is slow, then ATP hydrolysis and a structural rearrangement occurs before termination is completed, which affects the fate of the terminating ribosome in a manner that fails to stabilize the mRNA. This proposed system of distinguishing normal from aberrant transcripts is similar to, but distinct from other systems of kinetic proofreading that affect the accuracy of other biogenic processes such as translation accuracy and spliceosome assembly.

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