Translation and mRNA decay
- Cite this article as:
- Schneider, E., Blundell, M. & Kennell, D. Molec. Gen. Genet. (1978) 160: 121. doi:10.1007/BF00267473
Degradation of messenger RNA from the lactose operon (lac mRNA) was measured during the inhibition of protein synthesis by chloramphenicol (CM) or of translation-initiation by kasugamycin (KAS). With increasing CM concentration mRNA decay becomes slower, but there is no direct proportionality between rates of chemical decay and polypeptide synthesis. During exponential growth lac mRNA is cleaved endonucleolytically (Blundell and Kennell, 1974). At a CM concentration which completely inhibits all polypeptide synthesis this cleavage is blocked. In contrast, if only the initiation of translation is blocked by addition of KAS, the cleavage rate as well as the rate of chemical decay are increased significantly without delay. These faster rates do not result from immediate degradation of the lengthening stretch of ribosome-free proximal message, since the full-length size is present and the same discrete message sizes are generated during inhibition.
These results suggest that neither ribosomes nor translation play an active role in the degradative process. Rather, targets can be protected by the proximity of a ribosome, and without nearby ribosomes the probability of cleavage becomes very high. During normal growth there is a certain probability that any message is in such a vulnerable state, and the fraction of vulnerable molecules determines the inactivation rate of that species.
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