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Mol Cell. 2011 Dec 9;44(5):745-58. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2011.09.019.

Reconsidering movement of eukaryotic mRNAs between polysomes and P bodies.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Cell survival in changing environments requires appropriate regulation of gene expression, including posttranscriptional regulatory mechanisms. From reporter gene studies in glucose-starved yeast, it was proposed that translationally silenced eukaryotic mRNAs accumulate in P bodies and can return to active translation. We present evidence contradicting the notion that reversible storage of nontranslating mRNAs is a widespread and general phenomenon. First, genome-wide measurements of mRNA abundance, translation, and ribosome occupancy after glucose withdrawal show that most mRNAs are depleted from the cell coincident with their depletion from polysomes. Second, only a limited subpopulation of translationally repressed transcripts, comprising fewer than 400 genes, can be reactivated for translation upon glucose readdition in the absence of new transcription. This highly selective posttranscriptional regulation could be a mechanism for cells to minimize the energetic costs of reversing gene-regulatory decisions in rapidly changing environments by transiently preserving a pool of transcripts whose translation is rate-limiting for growth.

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