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Genes Dev. 1991 Feb;5(2):232-43.

The protein-coding region of c-myc mRNA contains a sequence that specifies rapid mRNA turnover and induction by protein synthesis inhibitors.

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Molecular Biology and Virology Laboratory, Salk Institute, San Diego, California 92138.


The stability of certain mRNAs is known to be affected by translation. Some mRNAs appear to be protected from rapid degradation by translation, whereas degradation is coupled to translation for other mRNAs. The molecular determinants of this selective effect of translation are unknown. One example of this effect is the induction of early-response gene mRNAs in the presence of translation inhibitors. To define the molecular basis of induction of early-response gene mRNA expression by inhibitors of protein synthesis, we have performed a mutational analysis of one member of the early response gene family, the c-myc gene. We find that induction by cycloheximide is due to stabilization of c-myc transcripts. The requirements for increased expression of c-myc mRNA by cycloheximide are the presence of the sequence encoding c-myc amino acids 335-439 on a mRNA that can be translated; all other portions of the c-myc gene are dispensable, and this sequence can confer induction of mRNA expression by protein synthesis inhibitors on a heterologous gene. By direct measurement of mRNA turnover in the absence of transcription-blocking drugs, we show that this sequence can function as a selective mRNA destabilizing element, that turnover mediated by this element is translation dependent, and turnover mediated by this element is inhibited by actinomycin D. Our results support the hypothesis that degradation of c-myc mRNA is coupled to translation, that the sequences specifying this form of degradation are contained in the protein-coding sequence, and that translation inhibitors induce expression of c-myc mRNA by blocking turnover mediated by this element.

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