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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2011 Aug;21(4):422-30. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2011.03.008.

Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) in animal embryogenesis: to die or not to die, that is the question.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and the Center for RNA Biology, School of Medicine and Dentistry, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 712, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a well-studied cellular quality-control pathway. It decreases the half-lives of eukaryotic mRNAs that aberrantly contain premature termination codons and additionally regulates an estimated 10-20% of normal transcripts. NMD factors play crucial roles during embryogenesis in many animals. Here, we review data indicating that NMD factors are required for proper embryogenesis by discussing the abnormal developmental phenotypes that result when the abundance of individual NMD factors is either downregulated or completely eliminated. We conclude that while NMD per se affects the embryogenesis of all animals, it is required to avoid embryonic lethality in only some animals. The critical roles of many NMD factors in other metabolic pathways undoubtedly also contribute to embryonic development if not viability.

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