Author(s): Mehta P, Richards J, Karzai AW
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Abstract In bacteria, ribosomes stalled on nonstop mRNAs are rescued by tmRNA in a unique process called trans-translation. The two known tmRNA functions in trans-translation are (1) a tRNA-like function, which transfers the partially synthesized protein fragment to itself; and (2) an mRNA-like function, which enables ribosomes to resume and terminate translation on tmRNA as a surrogate template. We present evidence to demonstrate that tmRNA performs a third function, namely, facilitating the degradation of the causative defective mRNA. Our investigations have revealed the identity of key sequence determinants that promote the degradation of the nonstop mRNA. These sequence determinants are located in the distal part of the tmRNA open reading frame, encoding the ultimate, penultimate, and anti-penultimate amino acids of the peptide tag. We show that mutation of these tmRNA sequence elements has an adverse affect on the disposal of the nonstop mRNA, while leaving the tRNA and mRNA functions entirely unaffected. More significantly, specific mutations that change the nucleotide sequence of the peptide-reading frame without altering the nature or identity of the encoded amino acids still exhibit the characteristic defect in nonstop mRNA decay. In contrast, mutations in codons 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the tmRNA open reading frame do not have an adverse affect on degradation of defective mRNAs. Based on these results, we propose that tmRNA plays an important role in promoting the decay of nonstop mRNAs and that sequence elements in the distal segment of the peptide-reading frame make sequence-specific contributions that are crucial for this activity.
This article was published in RNA
and referenced in Biochemistry & Physiology: Open Access