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Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Jun 20;45(11):6848-6863. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx256.

Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay in Tetrahymena is EJC independent and requires a protozoa-specific nuclease.

Tian M1,2,3, Yang W1,2, Zhang J1,2, Dang H4, Lu X1,2, Fu C1, Miao W1.

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Key Laboratory of Aquatic Biodiversity and Conservation, Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, Hubei 430072, China.
College of Life Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China.
Department of Chromosome Biology, Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna, Vienna A-1030, Austria.
College of Life Sciences, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China.


Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is essential for removing premature termination codon-containing transcripts from cells. Studying the NMD pathway in model organisms can help to elucidate the NMD mechanism in humans and improve our understanding of how this biologically important process has evolved. Ciliates are among the earliest branching eukaryotes; their NMD mechanism is poorly understood and may be primordial. We demonstrate that highly conserved Upf proteins (Upf1a, Upf2 and Upf3) are involved in the NMD pathway of the ciliate, Tetrahymena thermophila. We further show that a novel protozoa-specific nuclease, Smg6L, is responsible for destroying many NMD-targeted transcripts. Transcriptome-wide identification and characterization of NMD-targeted transcripts in vegetative Tetrahymena cells showed that many have exon-exon junctions downstream of the termination codon. However, Tetrahymena may lack a functional exon junction complex (EJC), and the Tetrahymena ortholog of an EJC core component, Mago nashi (Mag1), is dispensable for NMD. Therefore, NMD is EJC independent in this early branching eukaryote.

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