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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jun 22;276(25):23144-54. Epub 2001 Mar 28.

Interactions of CCCH zinc finger proteins with mRNA: tristetraprolin-mediated AU-rich element-dependent mRNA degradation can occur in the absence of a poly(A) tail.

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Office of Clinical Research and Laboratory of Signal Transduction, NIEHS, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


The CCCH family of tandem zinc finger proteins has recently been shown to promote the turnover of certain mRNAs containing class II AU-rich elements (AREs). In the case of one member of this family, tristetraprolin (TTP), absence of the protein in knockout mice leads to stabilization of two mRNAs containing AREs of this type, those encoding tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. To begin to decipher the mechanism by which these zinc finger proteins stimulate the breakdown of this class of mRNAs, we co-transfected TTP and its related CCCH proteins into 293 cells with vectors encoding full-length TNFalpha, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, and interleukin-3 mRNAs. Co-expression of the CCCH proteins caused the rapid turnover of these ARE-containing mRNAs and also promoted the accumulation of stable breakdown intermediates that were truncated at the 3'-end of the mRNA, even further 5' than the 5'-end of the poly(A) tail. To determine whether an intact poly(A) tail was necessary for TTP to promote this type of mRNA degradation, we inserted the TNFalpha ARE into a nonpolyadenylated histone mRNA and also attached a histone 3'-end-processing sequence to the 3'-end of nonpolyadenylated interleukin-3 and TNFalpha mRNAs. In all three cases, TTP stimulated the turnover of the ARE-containing mRNAs, despite the demonstrated absence of a poly(A) tail. These studies indicate that members of this class of CCCH proteins can promote class II ARE-containing mRNA turnover even in the absence of a poly(A) tail, suggesting that the processive removal of the poly(A) tail may not be required for this type of CCCH protein-stimulated mRNA turnover.

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