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The search for trans-acting factors controlling messenger RNA decay.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157, USA.


Control of mRNA turnover is an integral component of regulated gene expression. Individual mRNAs display a wide range of stabilities, which in many cases have been linked to discrete sequence elements. The most extensively characterized determinants of rapid constitutive mRNA turnover in mammalian systems are A + U-rich elements (AREs), first identified in the 3' untranslated regions of many cytokine/lymphokine and protooncogene mRNAs. In this article, we describe recent advances in the characterization of ARE-directed mRNA turnover, including links to deadenylation kinetics and functional heterogeneity among AREs from different mRNAs. We then describe strategies employed in the search for trans-acting factors interacting with these elements. Using such techniques, an ARE-binding activity capable of accelerating c-myc mRNA turnover in vitro was identified, and named AUF1. Subsequent cloning and characterization revealed that AUF1 exists as a family of four proteins formed by alternative splicing of a common pre-mRNA and appears to function as part of a multisubunit trans-acting complex to promote ARE-directed mRNA turnover. Investigations using several systems have demonstrated that AUF1 expression and/or activity correlate with rapid decay of ARE-containing mRNAs, and that both expression and activity of AUF1 are regulated by developmental and signal transduction mechanisms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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