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Mol Cell Biol. 1995 Dec;15(12):6593-600.

Context effects on misreading and suppression at UAG codons in human cells.

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Krebs Institute for Biomolecular Science, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.


The effect of the 3' codon context on the efficiency of nonsense suppression in mammalian tissue culture cells has been tested. Measurements were made following the transfection of cells with a pRSVgal reporter vector that contained the classical Escherichia coli lacZ UAG allele YA559. The position of this mutation was mapped by virtue of its fortuitous creation of a CTAG MaeI restriction enzyme site. Determination of the local DNA sequence revealed a C-->T mutation at codon 600 of the lacZ gene: CAG-->TAG. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to create a series of vectors in which the base 3' to the nonsense codon was either A, C, G, or U. Suppression of the amber-containing reporter was achieved by cotransfection with genes for human tRNA(Ser) or tRNA(Gln) UAG nonsense suppressors and by growth in the translational error-promoting aminoglycoside drug G418. Nonsense suppression was studied in the human cell lines 293 and MRC5V1 and the simian line COS-7. Overall, the rank order for the effect of changes to the base 3' to UAG was C < G = U < A. This study confirms and extends earlier findings that in mammalian cells 3' C supports efficient nonsense suppression while 3' A is unsympathetic for read-through at nonsense codons. The rules for the mammalian codon context effect on nonsense suppression are therefore demonstrably different from those in E. coli.

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