Mechanistic aspects of mRNA targeting for nonsense-mediated mRNA decay in human cells

Mühlemann, Oliver (21 April 2013). Mechanistic aspects of mRNA targeting for nonsense-mediated mRNA decay in human cells (Unpublished). In: EMBO Eucaryotic RNA turnover conference. IGBMC, Strasbourg, France. 21.-24.04.2013.

The nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) pathway is best known as a translation-coupled quality control system that recognizes and degrades aberrant mRNAs with ORF-truncating premature termination codons (PTCs), but a more general role of NMD in posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression is indicated by transcriptome-wide mRNA profilings that identified a plethora of physiological mRNAs as NMD substrates. We try to decipher the mechanism of mRNA targeting to the NMD pathway in human cells.
Recruitment of the conserved RNA-binding helicase UPF1 to target mRNAs has been reported to occur through interaction with release factors at terminating ribosomes, but evidence for translation-independent interaction of UPF1 with the 3’ untranslated region (UTR) of mRNAs has also been reported. We have transcriptome-wide determined the UPF1 binding sites by individual-nucleotide resolution UV crosslinking and immunoprecipitation (iCLIP) in human cells, untreated or after inhibiting translation. We detected a strongly enriched association of UPF1 with 3’ UTRs in undisturbed, translationally active cells. After translation inhibition, a significant increase in UPF1 binding to coding sequence (CDS) was observed, indicating that UPF1 binds RNA before translation and gets displaced from the CDS by translating ribosomes. This suggests that the decision to trigger NMD occurs after association of UPF1 with mRNA, presumably through activation of RNA-bound UPF1 by aberrant translation termination.
In a second recent study, we re-visited the reported restriction of NMD in mammals to the ‘pioneer round of translation’, i.e. to cap-binding complex (CBC)-bound mRNAs. The limitation of mammalian NMD to early rounds of translation would indicate a – from an evolutionary perspective – unexpected mechanistic difference to NMD in yeast and plants, where PTC-containing mRNAs seem to be available to NMD at each round of translation. In contrast to previous reports, our comparison of decay kinetics of two NMD reporter genes in mRNA fractions bound to either CBC or the eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) in human cells revealed that NMD destabilizes eIF4E-bound transcripts as efficiently as those associated with CBC. These results corroborate an emerging unified model for NMD substrate recognition, according to which NMD can ensue at every aberrant translation termination event.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)

UniBE Contributor:

Mühlemann, Oliver


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 540 Chemistry




Christina Schüpbach

Date Deposited:

04 Aug 2014 17:24

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:36


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