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J Biol Chem. 1999 Nov 5;274(45):31853-62.

Expression of the gene for mitoribosomal protein S12 is controlled in human cells at the levels of transcription, RNA splicing, and translation.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Universit√° di "Roma Tre," Rome, I-00146, Italy.


The human gene RPMS12 encodes a protein similar to bacterial ribosomal protein S12 and is proposed to represent the human mitochondrial orthologue. RPMS12 reporter gene expression in cultured human cells supports the idea that the gene product is mitochondrial and is localized to the inner membrane. Human cells contain at least four structurally distinct RPMS12 mRNAs that differ in their 5'-untranslated region (5'-UTR) as a result of alternate splicing and of 5' end heterogeneity. All of them encode the same polypeptide. The full 5'-UTR contains two types of sequence element implicated elsewhere in translational regulation as follows: a short upstream open reading frame and an oligopyrimidine tract similar to that found at the 5' end of mRNAs encoding other growth-regulated proteins, including those of cytosolic ribosomes. The fully spliced (short) mRNA is the predominant form in all cell types studied and is translationally down-regulated in cultured cells in response to serum starvation, even though it lacks both of the putative translational regulatory elements. By contrast, other splice variants containing one or both of these elements are not translationally regulated by growth status but are translated poorly in both growing and non-growing cells. Reporter analysis identified a 26-nucleotide tract of the 5'-UTR of the short mRNA that is essential for translational down-regulation in growth-inhibited cells. Such experiments also confirmed that the 5'-UTR of the longer mRNA variants contains negative regulatory elements for translation. Tissue representation of RPMS12 mRNA is highly variable, following a typical mitochondrial pattern, but the relative levels of the different splice variants are similar in different tissues. These findings indicate a complex, multilevel regulation of RPMS12 gene expression in response to signals mediating growth, tissue specialization, and probably metabolic needs.

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