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Trends Genet. 2012 Feb;28(2):78-88. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2011.10.005. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

A complex 'mRNA degradation code' controls gene expression during animal development.

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John Maynard Smith Building, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9QG, UK.


Current understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying mRNA degradation indicates that specific mRNA degradation rates are primarily encoded within the mRNA message itself in the form of cis-regulatory elements bearing particular primary sequences and/or secondary-structures. Such control elements are operated by RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) and/or miRNA-containing complexes. Based on the large number of RBPs and miRNAs encoded in metazoan genomes, their complex developmental expression and that specific RBP and miRNA interactions with mRNAs can lead to distinct degradation rates, I propose that developmental gene expression is shaped by a complex 'mRNA degradation code' with high information capacity. Localised cellular events involving the modification of RBP and/or miRNA target sequences in mRNAs by alternative polyadenylation added to the activation of specific RBP and miRNA activities via cell signalling are predicted to further expand the capacity of the mRNA degradation code by coupling it to dynamic events experienced by cells at specific spatiotemporal coordinates within the developing embryo.

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