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EMBO J. 1988 Nov;7(11):3559-69.

Ribosome pausing and stacking during translation of a eukaryotic mRNA.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0448.


We have devised a sensitive assay to determine the distribution of translating ribosomes on a mRNA. Using this assay to monitor ribosome transit on bovine preprolactin mRNA, we have detected four major positions of ribosome pausing in both wheat-germ and rabbit reticulocyte extracts. Two of these rate-limiting steps represent initiation and termination. One pause occurs after approximately 75 amino acids have been polymerized; signal recognition particle arrests preprolactin synthesis at this position. The other internal pause occurs at 160 amino acids. In these latter two cases ribosomes stop at a GGC glycine codon; however, two other GGC codons are translated without apparent pausing. Surprisingly, we find that up to nine ribosomes are tightly stacked behind each pausing ribosome, such that the ribosome centers are only 27-29 nucleotides apart. The assay should prove useful for probing mechanisms of translational regulation.

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