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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2006 Dec;13(12):1108-14. Epub 2006 Nov 26.

Human let-7a miRNA blocks protein production on actively translating polyribosomes.

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Program in Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 373 Plantation St., Suite 204, Worcester, Massachusetts 01605, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate gene expression at a post-transcriptional level through base-pairing to 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) of messenger RNAs. The mechanism by which human let-7a miRNA regulates mRNA translation was examined in HeLa cells expressing reporter mRNAs containing the Caenorhabditis elegans lin-41 3' UTR. let-7a miRNA strongly repressed translation, yet the majority of control and lin-41-bearing RNAs sedimented with polyribosomes in sucrose gradients; these polyribosomes, together with let-7a miRNA and the miRISC protein AGO, were released from those structures by puromycin. RNA containing the lin-41 3' UTR and an iron response element in the 5' UTR sedimented with polysomes when cells were incubated with iron, but showed ribosome run-off when the iron was chelated. These data indicate that let-7a miRNA inhibits actively translating polyribosomes. Nascent polypeptide coimmunoprecipitation experiments further suggest that let-7a miRNA interferes with the accumulation of growing polypeptides.

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