Functional analysis of multiple AUG codons in the transcripts of the STA2 glucoamylase gene from Saccharomyces cerevisiae
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A scanning ribosome will usually initiate translation as soon as it encounters the first favourable AUG codon and only a few eukaryotic transcripts have more complex arrangements. These relatively few complex transcripts are normally characterized by structural features such as multiple AUGs and significant secondary structure. However, the functional relevance of these features has rarely been established. We present here a study of the functional significance of the multiple AUGs in the leader of STA2 transcripts of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and extrapolate, where applicable, these results to a co-regulated gene, MUC1. The STA2 gene (a representative member of the polymorphic STA1-3 gene family), encodes an extracellular glucoamylase, and is evolutionarily linked to, and transcriptionally co-regulated with, the MUC1 gene, which encodes a mucin-like protein essential for pseudohyphal/invasive growth and cell-adhesion in S. cerevisiae. Each of these genes contains a putative upstream ORF, while STA2 has two additional in-frame AUG codons 5' to the major cistron. We show that utilization of the alternative translational start-sites of STA2 results in glucoamylases that differ at their N-termini, which are associated with differences in their localization patterns. Analysis of mutants revealed the presence of a putative secretion-enhancing signal that might prove to be relevant to the alternative targeting mechanism recently uncovered in S. cerevisiae. We show that a short upstream ORF present in the leaders of STA1-3 and MUC1 is probably bypassed by a process of leaky scanning.
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