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Biochimie. 2006 Jul;88(7):793-800. Epub 2006 Feb 3.

Codon-specific and general inhibition of protein synthesis by the tRNA-sequestering minigenes.

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Departamento de Genética y Biología Molecular, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del IPN, Apartado Postal 14-740, México DF 07000, Mexico.


The expression of minigenes in bacteria inhibits protein synthesis and cell growth. Presumably, the translating ribosomes, harboring the peptides as peptidyl-tRNAs, pause at the last sense codon of the minigene directed mRNAs. Eventually, the peptidyl-tRNAs drop off and, under limiting activity of peptidyl-tRNA hydrolase, accumulate in the cells reducing the concentration of specific aminoacylable tRNA. Therefore, the extent of inhibition is associated with the rate of starvation for a specific tRNA. Here, we used minigenes harboring various last sense codons that sequester specific tRNAs with different efficiency, to inhibit the translation of reporter genes containing, or not, these codons. A prompt inhibition of the protein synthesis directed by genes containing the codons starved for their cognate tRNA (hungry codons) was observed. However, a non-specific in vitro inhibition of protein synthesis, irrespective of the codon composition of the gene, was also evident. The degree of inhibition correlated directly with the number of hungry codons in the gene. Furthermore, a tRNA(Arg4)-sequestering minigene promoted the production of an incomplete beta-galactosidase polypeptide interrupted, during bacterial polypeptide chain elongation at sites where AGA codons were inserted in the lacZ gene suggesting ribosome pausing at the hungry codons.

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