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J Mol Biol. 1991 Sep 5;221(1):81-95.

mRNA degradation by processive 3'-5' exoribonucleases in vitro and the implications for prokaryotic mRNA decay in vivo.

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  • 1Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories, Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford, U.K.


Two 3'-5' exoribonucleases, polynucleotide phosphorylase and ribonuclease II play a central role in the degradation of bacterial mRNA to ribonucleotides. Sequences with the potential to form stem-loop structures can stabilize upstream mRNA against 3'-5' exoribonucleolytic attack in vivo by blocking the processive activities of these enzymes. For many mRNA species stem-loop structures appear to provide a very efficient block to decay from the 3' end, such that the rate-determining step for mRNA decay occurs elsewhere in the transcript. We have examined the stalling of 3'-5' exoribonucleases at stem-loop structures in vitro. Although stem-loop structures alone can impede the progress of both enzymes, the duration of stalling at these structures in vitro is insufficient to account for the increased half-lives that they confer on mRNA in vivo. These data suggest that an additional factor, such as a stem-loop binding protein, is required for stabilization of mRNA by stem-loop structures in vivo. The implications for the regulation of mRNA stability are discussed.

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