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EMBO J. 2001 Feb 1;20(3):532-40.

Splicing and 3' end formation in the definition of nonsense-mediated decay-competent human beta-globin mRNPs.

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Children's Hospital, Charité, Humboldt University, Augustenburger Platz 1, D-13353 Berlin, Germany.


Premature translation termination codons are common causes of genetic disorders. mRNAs with such mutations are degraded by a surveillance mechanism termed nonsense-mediated decay (NMD), which represents a phylogenetically widely conserved post-transcriptional mechanism for the quality control of gene expression. How NMD-competent mRNPs are formed and specified remains a central question. Here, we have used human beta-globin mRNA as a model system to address the role of splicing and polyadenylation for human NMD. We show that (i) splicing is an indispensable component of the human beta-globin NMD pathway, which cannot be compensated for by exonic beta-globin 'failsafe' sequences; (ii) the spatial requirements of human beta-globin NMD, as signified by the maximal distance of the nonsense mutation to the final exon-exon junction, are less constrained than in yeast; and (iii) non-polyadenylated mRNAs with a histone 3' end are NMD competent. Thus, the formation of NMD-competent mRNP particles critically depends on splicing but does not require the presence of a poly(A) tail.

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