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Mol Cell Biol. 1988 Jan;8(1):427-32.

mRNA stability plays a major role in regulating the temperature-specific expression of a Tetrahymena thermophila surface protein.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock 72205.


Synthesis of the serotype H3 (SerH3) surface antigen is temperature dependent and responds within 1 h to a change in incubation conditions (G.A. Bannon, R. Perkins-Dameron, and A. Allen-Nash, Mol. Cell. Biol. 6:3240-3245, 1986). Recently, a Tetrahymena thermophila cDNA clone (pC6; D.W. Martindale and P.J. Bruns, Mol. Cell. Biol. 3:1857-1865, 1983) has been shown to be homologous to a portion of the SerH3 mRNA (F.P. Doerder and R.L. Hallberg, personal communication), and it was shown that the cellular levels of this RNA rapidly decreased when cells were shifted from 30 to 41 degrees C (R.L. Hallberg, K.W. Kraus, and R.C. Findly, Mol. Cell. Biol. 4:2170-2179, 1984). These observations indicate that synthesis of the SerH3 protein is highly regulated in response to temperature and led us to initiate studies to determine the mechanism(s) by which SerH3 gene expression is controlled. Using pC6 as a hybridization probe for the SerH3 mRNA, we have determined that (i) the level of SerH3 protein synthesis is directly correlated with the amount of SerH3 message available for translation; (ii) there is, at most, a twofold difference between the relative transcription rates of SerH3 genes at 30 and 40 degrees C; (iii) the SerH3 mRNA half-life in cells incubated at 30 degrees C is greater than 1 h, whereas the half-life in cells incubated at 40 degrees C is only approximately 3 min. These results demonstrate that Tetrahymena SerH3 surface protein expression is regulated by mRNA abundance. Furthermore, the major mechanism controlling mRNA abundance is a dramatic temperature-dependent change in SerH3 mRNA stability.

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